Unexpected Magic and the Tales of Windows

I have an uncanny knack for running into people in London. In the past seven days I’ve bumped into friends and colleagues in some interesting places: on the street, on the Overground, at a talk on food featuring lots of craft beer.

This isn’t too unusual for me, running into people, but given that London is humongously huge and that I’ve heard from other friends and acquaintances that they never run into people when out and about, maybe it’s pretty unique in London life, or maybe just in the circles I’m involved with.

One of the people I ran into was a fantastic friend and former SOAS colleague, seen for the first time in over a year at the Something About Food event on Wednesday at Mason & Taylor’s. When we saw each other, it was probably the most emphatically joyous hello the bar has ever seen. Well, maybe not, but at least that week. It was good catching up with him and meeting his friend over pints of BrewDog beer. He works as a butcher now, and if he ever indulges in his idea of blogging about his experiences, I’ll be yellin’ all about it here as well as on TastyFever.com. Go, Matt, go!

Also ran into @TomThePen and his darling squeeze Ceci on the Overground as I was heading to the Renegade Craft Fair (you can read about that here) last Saturday. There’s a few days left to catch a show they’re participating in down in Peckham in The Asylum Chapel: Something About You [Makes Me Want to Hurt You]. If you’re down that way, check it out.

There have been instances in the past when I was living in London previously when I’ve run into people. I think one of my favourite instances involved the 29, when I was on the bendy 29 bus en route to SOAS, and I looked over as the bus sat in traffic on Eversholt Street at another bendy 29 bus and saw my friend Hannah. I managed to catch her attention, and we waived at each other, each in our public transport chariot heading to the same place (although I got off a stop later).

Many people prize living in a city where they can move about anonymously, and I admit I don’t mind it myself after coming from a place where you can run into everyone you know depending on what place you go to. However, there’s a bit of magic when, among millions of strangers, a familiar face becomes recognisable on the street, on a bus, on a train, in a bar. It makes London less lonely, and it combats the negative bits, like when someone yells “BITCH!” randomly at you from a car as you walk home in the deepest part of the night, or when some inebriated guy in your pub tries to bumble a date with you after insulting your choice of employment.


I cover quite a bit of unexpected magic in the Abandoned in London photoblog, and given the contributions I’ve gotten (especially the most recent one by Martin/Teflon of the abandoned Pooh bear), I’m not the only one who encounters the random that shakes them out of urban complacency. Even when one isn’t finding a friendly needle in a London haystack, there are serendipitous moments to be had alone with just you and the city. Maybe it involves spotting a stencil you hadn’t noticed before after you think it meowed at you.

Or perhaps it could be a moment when the song on your iPod matches eerily with the environs around you and the mood the scenery evokes. Or maybe the snatches of overheard conversation at a café, pub, bar or on the bus or street–snatches of the lives of others, whose anonymity is momentarily replaced with an impression, a reaction, a sense of humanity stirred in your brain and heart.

Then you realise this anonymous city isn’t really so anonymous after all, but rather filled with so many lives, so many stories, so many dreams and frustrations and hopes and fears.

When I rode the Overground to the Something About Food event, the thought of all these lives and dreams and everything was visualised by all the windows I glided past. Lamps on, people were making plans, working on projects, talking with others, making coffee, drinking wine, working late, reading books and being part of this magic of everyday existence. Every window had a tale to tell, and that tale was ever-changing and dynamic–looking in and looking out.

As I stood outside on a break from the pub, drinking a glass of water and looking around the street, catching periodic audio glimpses of those sitting outside, I noticed in the building opposite someone on the top floor looking down from a window, watching the goings-on of the street as he smoked his cigarette. We looked at each other for a moment, and then I looked away as I finished drinking up the last bit of water, wondering what that man in the window has seen that night aside from groups of people drinking, smoking, chatting, and a bar maid on break, what tales that window has given him.

What tales do the windows you look out of give you?


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