Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Darkness



It is early morning. Between the house and the train station the only sign of life is a lone fox prowling the front gardens of the terraced houses. It stops in its tracks, looks back over its shoulder, then continues down the road nosing through bin bags in search of scraps. Upstairs, curtains are drawn and for a few more hours at least, the residents will slumber on until alarms break the silence of their bedrooms and announce a new working day. Some will wake to the vibration and ringtone of their mobile phone. Others will be roused by the high energy voice of a radio dj. Many will hit the snooze button of their alarm clock, roll over, and catch another five minutes of sleep. Oh precious, precious sleep! Who can blame them? The first autumn frost has covered the cars parked outside and the duvet offers a far cosier place to shelter.

On the 5.29am train to Charing Cross, the first train of the day into central London, bleary-eyed passengers sit in silence peering into the darkness outside. At each stop, a handful more workers get on. They slump into empty seats and sleepily rest their cheeks against the chilly windows. They close their eyes wishing they were still in bed, dreaming in many languages from Portuguese to Polish. There is no jostling, no fighting for a seat or desperate shouts of "can you move down the train please?!" In three hours time the carriages will be crammed with commuters on their way to offices across the capital. Men in suits, freshly showered and with hair coiffed. Women vainly attempting to apply mascara as the train lurches from side to side. But here on the 5.29, no one has really made much effort over their appearance. There are construction workers in heavy boots with paint-splattered trousers and stubbled chins. There are cleaners, transport workers, hotel chambermaids, and kitchen hands all of whom will change out of their hastily chosen clothes and into the uniforms that await them at their workplaces. It feel strange to be amongst them, to see delivery vans hurtle down the empty London thoroughfares that will soon become congested with all manner of vehicle, to see the bare shelves of Pret and Starbucks being stacked with croissants and muffins. I am seeing London in a different light, although in reality at such an early hour, there is no real light to speak of.

It is the end of British Summertime, another summertime only in name. The clocks have changed and as I reach the cafe, the sun is beginning to rise. The faint dawn glow will be the only natural light I will see for the next week; that and the five minutes of twilight I might glimpse on my way home. With a kitchen in the basement, exposure to natural daylight is going to be minimal over the winter, something that is a scarier prospect than a trick or treat visit from the Ghetto Boyz of Brockley. By the time the end of March comes around I will probably have the skin tone of Marilyn Manson and the eyesight of a mole. Now if I can just get the fashion bibles to sell "Blind Goth" as the look for Spring/Summer '09, it will all be worthwhile.

9 comments:

James said...

Happy days.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Wait a minute, it was. It feels like you're in on a secret world that those people snoozing at that time of day just miss out on. In the summer the sun rise over the Thames on the 4am night bus was the best thing out....

... and the other thing is you miss the sardine tin feel of jam packed commuter trains - at both ends of the day.

Get some loud music on the ear phones, a couple of coffees, an a all day breakfast muffin from the night chef and it's amazing what you can get done by the 8 o'clock morning meeting.

Sleep's over rated anyway I always say - you can sleep when you're dead.

Welcome to the world of a chef! Enjoy!

Loving Annie said...

Pete,
I love fall/winter and the darkness of early morning.

It is just so peaceful then (relatively) with everyone sleepily stirring and beginning thier days.

I enjoy seeing the sky lighten and the sun come up, and I love the crisp feel of the air...

But working without much light all day, because the kitchen is down in the basement, would not be fun at all.

Natural daylight is important to having a good mood, studies have found - as well as for proper absorbtion of Vitamin D and calcium !

Lizzie said...

Sheesh - the only time you should ever have to get up that early is when you're going on holiday!

Trig said...

Oh how I miss early mornings on the bus and tube to Victoria for college! Not.

Helen said...

Oh dear oh dear, I can't say I envy you. I think the last time I was on a train that early I was going home, not to work...

Pete said...

Yes, those were the days, falling out of a club at 6am and looky shady on the first tube home. Oh how my life has changed!

Alex said...

Even the first train of the day is delayed... love the service

Anonymous said...

Winter dark early mornings are definitely somewhat depressing.
Then again, things start getting lighter in just over a months time and then again again, we don't live in Rejkyavik do we?

Bon courage Pete!

Douglas Blyde said...

Just the sight of that sign gives me pain...