Archive for the ‘prose poetry’ Category

crime Lord

Posted: November 7, 2015 in film review, prose poetry
Tags: ,

I went to see “Legend” yesterday, with my 19-year-old son. The film is about the notorious London East-End gangsters, the Kray twins, who ‘ran’ London in the 1960s.

I was aware of the Krays as a teenager in London, and read some fascinating books about them. Even on paper, you could sense their power, their charisma, and their downright evil.

The film does a good job of portraying these characteristics. Tom Hardy plays BOTH Krays, in an astonishing piece of acting. He even manages to make the twins look different, and projects the differences in their personalities: Reggie, the hard-nosed businessman who menaces more often than man-handles; Ronnie the psychopath for whom violence is often the first resort. The complexity of their relationship is well presented. It also shows the fear-based esteem in which they were held in their community. Nobody is completely evil (although Ronnie must have been close) are they? Perhaps the only criticism is that the role of their mother is downplayed, whereas in the books I’ve read, she was a dominant figure in their lives.

A few years ago, I wrote a prose poem loosely based on one of the Krays, although it could equally apply to any other gangland figure: the Richardsons for instance, who were the Krays’ rivals in London at the time. It alludes to the almost Christ-like status of such a gangster:

crime Lord

   Do you remember how nobody spoke when he came into the pub? And nobody dared look up in case they caught his eye. Every bloke in the place bowed the head when Reggie walked in. Almost genuflected. As if he was Christ Almighty. And how he would intone a low “evenin’ to you boys”. To which we would all respond in murmured unison “and to you Reggie”. And how he would sit at the bar with his back to us for an hour or more. And beckon anyone he wanted to commune with. To sit on his right hand side. To discuss whatever was troubling him. In low prayer like whispers. To sing his praises. To get his blessing. And how he followed Jack into the gents one night. There was a bit of shouting, a bit of sobbing as Jack confessed. Begged salvation. Then a lot of screaming, followed by silence. Except for the sound of taps running. And Reggie came out, but Jack didn’t. The barman offered up a whisky, which Reggie duly sank before leaving. Didn’t pay of course, never paid. And how I was the one went in to see about Jack. Found his body. And blood all over the walls. Do you remember? The place would never relax, even after Reggie left. Like some part of him was still present. Listening, watching over us, all-powerful. He’s dead now of course. Died, for his sins, in the nick thank God. And how a multitude turned out for the funeral. Not sure if it was in honour or for the salmon sandwiches afterwards. Or to say “good riddance”. But if it was “good riddance”, no one was saying it out loud. Afraid he might rise from the dead perhaps. They all bowed their heads like they did when he was alive. And nobody spoke. I remember that.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015


Poem number 38 for April 2015. There was a dead possum on the pavement in front of my house this morning (above). I was reminded of a Gary Young prose poem.


after Gary Young

A possum did not survive the night. It is stretched on the pavement, wide-eyed. Whatever fatal injuries it sustained are not visible. No red stain, no ripple of intestines. The musk lorikeets in the high branches of the lemon scented gum are excited, chorusing with the eastern rosellas and mynas lower down.  The elderly man across the road does his morning Parkinsonian walk around the front garden, glances towards the corpse, trembles back indoors. The postman on his Honda rumbles along the pavement, dispenses bills, circulars, welcome and unwelcome news, zigs around the possum, wafts exhaust fumes over the body. It’s autumn. The weather is cool. It will be days before the body ripens, stiffens, bloats. Bin collection is 4 days away. The Anzac day commemorations are gone. The Prime Minister farewelled three hundred troops bound for Iraq. A Basra reed warbler was sighted by a serviceman in the Mesopotamian Marshes.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 14 for April 2015. And another snippet from my Cuba journal:

The Music of Havana

Tuesday 28th June 2005

I want to hear some live Cuban music. After dinner I walk down to the Malecon to catch a scooter-taxi. The taxi driver is the biggest and blackest man I’ve ever seen, with the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen – they almost glow as night draws in. He quotes $5 to take me to Habana Vieja (Old Havana). He is loud and humorous and friendly, like most Cubans. He tells me “you need to find a woman. You haven’t lived until you have fucked a Cuban woman”. I tell him I am married. He says so is he, but it makes no difference. I say “no thanks”. He laughs and points out a few of the “chicas” as he speeds along the Malecon, looking more at me than at the road. I ask him where to find the best music. He recommends La Bodegita del Medio and drops me nearby. This area of Havana is well preserved: cobbled streets, no traffic, it could be an old part of Madrid or Barcelona. The Bodegita is a small, cramped, L-shaped bar with wooden partitions to the street. There is indeed a good band playing, nestled in the corner, backs to the street, guitar, double bass, maracas, drums and all of them singing intricate harmonies. The maraca player occasionally bangs his maracas on the partition. It the best I’ve heard so far, but the place is a bit touristy, and the beers are tourist prices i.e. $3 for a beer compared to the usual $1. After two or three songs, the guitarist passes around the hat and pushes their CD. I buy one for $10. I walk about 100 metres and hear another band. A more down-market but bigger bar. Ceiling fans, waitresses, cigar smoke. The band are OK. A female flautist does a dance routine with the male lead singer. I walk for another ten minutes and come to the Bar Monserrate. The band here really cooks: saxophone, electric piano, drums, guitar, vocals. The sax player is a virtuoso, sprinkling references to Gershwin in his solos. I wander further, past a derelict, partly demolished building in which chairs have been set up and there is an improvised bar in the corner, and a small stage. The band on the stage look and sound like the Buena Vista Social Club. Great vocals. But the rain starts, and it gets so heavy that they call the gig off. I get a scooter-taxi back to Vedado. A different driver. Not a good-time guy, a serious guy. No talk of Cuban women, but of Fidel and Chavez and a big deal they are pulling off.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 13 for April 2015. Another snippet from my Cuba journal:

On my way to meet Fat Mary the Prostitute

18th June 2005

I’m cycling on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, to the westernmost point of Cuba to see Fat Mary the Prostitute. She’s not there anymore, but the town of Maria La Gorda is named after her. Maria was an aboriginal Venezuelan woman, cast aside by pirates once they had tired of her. When the pirates departed, she set up an “inn” where she made a living by entertaining sailors and locals, and grew fat on the proceeds. The inn is now a Cuban hotel. Cuban hotels are almost all terrible, but there’s nowhere else to stay at Maria la Gorda. Once I’m on the peninsula, the landscape changes from small farms to thick scrub, which is high enough to cast much-needed shade over the quiet road. Clouds of white and yellow butterflies rise up in front of my bicycle. Thousands of small red crabs scuttle sideways across the road. A vulture flies along the crest of the road in front of me for a few hundred metres after I disturb it from its road kill. I stop by the roadside about 11:30 for an early lunch. 44 kilometres covered. A hundred mosquitoes descend on me, but obligingly disperse when I wave my arms frantically. My backside is sore. I adjust the height of the saddle and get back on the road. At 52 kilometres I reach the sea at Bajada. I was told there was high security here because of the fear of U.S. invasion and the sparse population along the coast. There’s a boom gate across the road. The guard is asleep in his hut. I stop obediently but it seems a shame to wake him. I cycle around the boom gate. The last 14 kilometres is alongside white sandy beaches. The road gets rougher. It’s completely washed away in places. It’s covered in white debris – what looks like a mixture of sand and marble. I’m wearing an old long-sleeved business shirt I bought in a shop in Vinales for 33 Cuban Pesos (about $2). I didn’t know it was old until I unwrapped it and saw the soiled collar, but for $2 it was still a bargain. The long sleeves and high collar will give me some protection from the Cuban sun. To try to stay cool I have unbuttoned the shirt all the way down the front. Despite my downward facing position on the bike, I find that my stomach and chest are turning lobster red from sunburn; the sun’s reflection off the white road. I reach the hotel at Maria La Gorda. I haven’t booked, so if it’s full I either sleep out in the open (not a good idea) or turn around and head 70 kilometres back to Sandino (impossible, I’m exhausted). The Señorita at receptions says “Si”, they have a room. She is not fat. Her name is not Mary.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 10 for April 2015. I’ve been reading up on prose poems in preparation for a poetry group meeting this weekend. I haven’t written one for a while. This one came to me today, again from a childhood memory.

The Woman in the Basement

The woman in the basement scared me. I mean really scared me. Mrs. Chivers her name was. She always wore a hairnet, and one of those dustcoat aprons, floral and greasy. A widow. I didn’t really know what a widow was, but it sounded bad. And a fag always hanging out the corner of her mouth, a half inch of ash ever poised to drop. Not that she ever said or did anything scary as such. Except to look. It was her look mostly. Every time she saw me, she’d look at me that way. At the front of the house, the concrete yard where I pedalled my trike, was level with the top of her front window. She had net curtains. I couldn’t see her behind the net curtains, but I could sense her there; almost see her silhouette. And she was watching me. I was a quiet boy, so it’s not as if I was disturbing her. But I knew she was there, and I felt her resentment. There was a staircase going down from our kitchen to her basement flat. It had a door, which locked from her side. One of those doors with two oblong panes of frosted glass in the top half. I wanted us to put a lock on our side too. The way it was, she could keep us out, but we couldn’t keep her out. I lay awake at night, worrying that she was coming up that staircase, unsnibbing the lock and entering our world; that she was footpadding around, looking into our drawers, inspecting our larder, stealing our jam, helping herself to a cup of tea, and putting her feet up to smoke my Dad’s fags. I had regular nightmares. Nightmares of being drawn by some invisible force, towards that door at the top of her stairs; of the door being opened from the inside by an unseen hand; of the dark stairs leading down to her basement; of the dark outline of her waiting at the bottom of the stairs; only in my nightmare she had the head of a dog or wolf; of being unable to scream; of being dragged by that invisible force down, and down the stairs. I’d wake, screaming real screams. Next morning, I’d inspect the kitchen for signs of her: a dirty cup, a scattering of fag ash. I’d check if the door to the basement was still locked, and sometimes I could see her right there, behind the door, listening.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Saturday 11th June 2005

Queuing along a shadowy passageway leading down to the local ferry from Havana to Casablanca and Cojimar. My bike worth ten years wages to the Cubans pressed in around me. It’s claustrophobic. It’s humid. My paranoia is mounting. The queue shuffles forward. Even the locals are sweating.

One hand on my wallet. My thoughts of a stiletto knife and the ease with which one could be slipped between my ribs. My eyes drawn to the dark gap between ferry and quay, tailor made for a tourist’s body. My attention sought by a ragged man and his ragged wife in front of me. They are staring at my wallet and the Convertible Pesos * folded inside it. He gesticulates to me and then to his wife. She looks too old, surely, to be a prostitute, though she is probably younger than me.

I don’t understand his gap toothed Spanish. Can vaguely interprete “too much, too much”. Too much what? I have too much money for one person in a socialist country? I have too many possessions and those around me have too few?  I tighten my grip on my bike, push my wallet deeper into my pocket, keep edging forward towards the rough looking, swarthy Cuban collecting fares on the gangplank. The old man is getting more and more agitated, keeps pointing to his wife and to me. At last she reaches into her purse, pulls out 40 centavos, local currency, the ferry fare; gives it to me, to save me using a whole convertible peso, for which I would receive no change.


* Cuba operates dual currencies: Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC$) are for tourist use, pegged to the US dollar and must be used to pay for accommodation and anywhere that tourists might shop – bars, restaurants, supermarkets,tourist buses. Local pesos are used day to day by Cubans, are only accepted in the local shops, street stalls, local transport etc. A CUC$ is worth about 25 times a local peso. Each peso is made up of 100 centavos. So the ferry fare of 40 centavos is about 1/60th of CUC$1

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014


I’m not in a good mood today, having stayed up to the early hours to watch my Premier League team Fulham, desperately needing a win, throw away a two goal lead. Not sure why this still upsets me but it does. So there’s a bit of venom in the brain today, and it’s come out in the form of satire. I acknowledge a debt to the great, veteran, British performance poet Attila the Stockbroker for this one. He did a wonderful piece called “The Bible according to Rupert Murdoch“. I’ve pinched the idea and turned it into this:


The Gospel According to St. Tony

after Attila the Stockbroker


In the beginning was the word

and the word was Stop!


And the Lord said:

Let there be a plague of slogans and let there be a slogan for every prejudice,

Yea, even until the prejudiced themselves will say “Stop the Slogans”


And let St. Tony be the prophet whose mouth will constantly chant these slogans

And let St. Rupert be the holy messenger of these slogans

for he has minions in every corner of the land waiting to write the word.

And let this plague of slogans spread across the land so that the people hear and see nothing except “Stop”.


And St. Tony, in his raiment of red speedo and chest of camel hair, hearing the words of the Lord, smirked in an unholy way.

And St. Rupert said:

Now, let us also send forth the shock jocks of the east for verily, they will gladly mouth these slogan ad nauseam.

And let the old growth forests be felled to feed the paper mills so that my media empire can engrave the word “Stop!” in 4 inch headlines on newsprint every day unto eternity.

And let not the people be allowed to think of anything but “Stop!

For thinking leads to fornication, sodomy and bestiality and if any reporter dares to start an article, not with the holy word “Stop!” let he or she be cast forever from the media empire and spend eternity volunteering for Radio Adelaide.

And the Lord looked down on St. Rupert’s work and on St. Tony’s slogans and saw that they were indeed execrable.

But this was capitalism, and it made rich the robber barons of the land and so it was good.


But lo, it came to pass that the people went mad from the constant slogans. They took to drink and drugs, fornication, footy, home renovations and cooking to deaden their pain.

And St. Rupert sent forth his Fox Channel familiars to film the people and all the goings-on thereof, and made it into a top rating reality show.

And so the beginning of the end began.

And from there, things got even worse.


© Mike Hopkins 2014


“The Government has given the go ahead for the purchase of 58 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) at a cost of $12.4 billion – making it the nation’s most expensive Defence asset.” (ABC News, 23/4/14).


Reasons to Spend $12 Billion on Fighter Jets


  1. Saves on medical bills – less Viagra needed by politicians and military top brass.
  2. Loud, fast, impressive flypasts at motor races
  3. Avoids arguments between bureaucrats about whether to spend the money on health or education
  4. Sounds really impressive in speeches – sexy words like ‘strike’, ‘JSF’, ‘fighter’, ‘f-35, ‘hornet’
  5. Exciting daily rides for large numbers of Australians – well 58 of them at least
  6. Wonderful vote of confidence in those great, great people in the armaments industry
  7. You can get somewhere really fast – if you’re on your own, a qualified F-35 fighter pilot and the ‘somewhere’ is an air force base or aircraft carrier
  8. Got to love those vapour trails
  9. Easy to park – can fit into just 4 normal car park spaces *
  10. Gives lots of our money to a really needy country … the U.S.A.
  11. Stimulates jobs … in the U.S.A.
  12. Shows how independent we are from everybody (except the U.S.A.)
  13. Scares the shite out of boat people when you fly really low over them
  14. Big boost to the sales of plastic model aircraft kits and glue
  15. Video stores get increased demand for rentals of  “Top Gun”
 * car park spaces must be at the end of a 750 metre runway


You know it makes sense.


© Mike Hopkins 2014

New Age Bull


This one came from a Facebook post this morning, about a “New Age Bullshit Generator” (here). You press a celestial button on the site and it generates a page of New Age bullshit – you know, rebirth, unicorns, the cosmos, chakras etc.

So I challenged fellow Poem A Day-er Tracey Korsten to a duel – write a poem out of the New Age bullshit.

So here’s mine:


“The Universe is Buzzing ….“

…with bio-electricity” she says.  “We exist as bio-feedback.”


–          I am reminded I haven’t paid my power bill.


“The solar system is calling to you via vibrations.” she says “Can you hear it?”


–          I cup my ear, but the vibrations are overwhelmed by bar chatter and the cash register


“We will be reborn at a crossroads of power and discontinuity” she says


–          I had a Robert Johnson record once, but I scratched it.


“Who are we? Where on the great mission will we be reborn?”


–          I hadn’t realised she was one of the Stolen Generation.


“We are in the midst of an event that will remove the barriers to the cosmos itself so that we will enter into infinite space-time”


–          I see myself as a young Captain Kirk, in an early episode of Star Trek


“Bondage is the antithesis of growth. Desire is born in the gap”


–          I think she’s trying to hit on me


“Reality has always been full of adventurers”


–          She IS trying to hit on me


“Imagine a maturing of what could be. It is time to take aspiration to the next level” she says


–          No, she thinks I’m too old


“Astrology may be the solution to what’s holding you back from an epic fount of potentiality. Confront the things that can exterminate” she says


–          Astrology instead of Viagra? Or maybe it’s Dr. Who.


“Our chakras are engulfed in the wonders of curiosity” she says


–          “I’m skint. I was wondering if you could buy me a pint?” I say.




© Mike Hopkins 2014

Circle Line

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece recording my trip on the Adelaide Tram on Australia Day. It was inspired by Ron Silliman’s “BART” poem. This is a companion piece, recording my trip in June 2013 around the Circle line, on the London Underground.

Circle Line

11:45 a.m. 15th June 2013. London. A cool, windy summer’s day. The District line from Ravenscourt Park to Hammersmith (where I was born) to get onto the Circle line. “All change please. There is no District line east from Hammersmith. All change. All change. This train is terminating here”. A typical Londoner opposite me: angular, large features, greying. An east European family next to me. Off the train, along the platform, bumping in the crowd, up the stairs, past a man playing guitar, who could be Edge, the guitarist in U2. Past W.H. Smith, through the barriers, swiping my Oyster card, across two roads to the other Hammersmith station for the Circle line. “Hey buddy how you doing?”: a man opposite. Not talking to me. Talking loudly on his smartphone. “This is a Hammersmith and City line train to Barking. Please stand clear of the doors”. The smartphone man: “ I don’t know where to go. Should I go straight to the gate?”. “Do you wanna be a lawyer? I’ll call you when I get to Aldgate”. Another man opposite reading “Private Eye”. “This is Goldhawk Road”. A family with plastic bags of food and large bottles of Coke. “The next station is Shepherd’s Bush Market”. My Dad used to bring me here as a child; we could walk from our house in Shepherd’s Bush. A man in a green tracksuit top scans his ‘phone. A Chinese looking man looks over his shoulder. The wife shares the Coke bottle with her son. The classic tube sound: whine rising in pitch as the train speeds up, clunkety clunk, clunkety clunk; the whine lowers in pitch as the train slows down. Vacuum thud of a train going in the opposite direction; strobe effect from its windows. Past the huge Westfield shopping centre coming into Latimer Road. “Sale ends soon. Bed and mattress £1,170 £498. Warner Evans. Handmade in London”. Clouds, cumulo nimbus. Sun streaming through the windows. Rumble of wheels. The train stops for no apparent reason. That strange motor noise like a recharging generator. A tall woman gets on. Stands, adjusts her white trousers, tucks in her tangerine top below a pink and black cardigan. Sits. Blows her nose. “The next station is Ladbroke Grove. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform”. White trouser lady takes off her pink and black cardigan. Gets out her smartphone, puts in her earphones. She has striking pewter coloured shoes, black nail polish, bare shoulders now. “The next station is Royal Oak”. A Russian looking couple converse down the carriage. Squeal of brakes. The doors rattle open. A big, young bloke paces up and down by the doors. Reads his smartphone. White trousered lady takes out a book: Anne Patchett, “State of Wonder”. Big young bloke has a “Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band” t-shirt on, very muddy trainers. “This is Paddington”. It’s getting crowded. Sound of an ascending xylophone – the ‘phone of a woman next to me. She has brown suede Ugg boots. Lights flicker on and off and on. We are now underground. A bang and shudder and then smooth progress. Reflections in the window against the dark tunnel. I can see myself hovering over the head of white trouser lady. Woman next to me gets out a drink. “Edgware Road. Change here for Circle Line”. Platform 1 Eastbound. Above ground. On the platform a young couple with bicycles. Opposite the platform, a concrete building, grey, smoke-stained, dirty. A low door: “Danger. Risk of Electric Shock”. Rows and rows of cables, piping, wires; dozens of them run the length of the wall the other side of the tracks. A Japanese looking girl, colourful top, red glasses on her heard, reading her smartphone. Smiles to herself. A small boy next to me, Indian, perhaps five years old, receives a call on his smartphone: “’allo. no ….”. It is 12:15 p.m. on the station’s Roman numeral clock face. A train comes in on platform 2. “Circle line via Aldgate” on the front. This should take me full circle. Quite full. I grab a seat at the front end, back to the window, the door to my right. Through the door window to my right I can see into the next carriage. Back underground. “Baker Street – change for Bakerloo, Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines. Exit here for Madame Tussaud’s”. Doors clatter shut. “What about Rome, that would be fantastic”: a woman opposite with green shoes. In the next carriage, a girl in a shiny pink dress, pink top, pigtails, nine or ten years old, swings from the handrail; takes her pink top off, hands it to her mother. “Oh I’m sure it was. Got it from”: green shoes woman. A man gets on with a suitcase. Sits next to me. He is restless. Feet tapping. Sniffing. Down the carriage a girl plays a game with her young father which involves knocking him on the head. She sits on his knee. “This is Euston Square”. White tiled walls. Advertisement: “Dress £15”.We move off into the tunnel. Clunkety clunk. Flash. Glimpses of people in a passing train. A man, short, bouquet in his hand, “Isle of Flowers”, Karrimor backpack, sandals. He is with a woman: tall, blonde. Who are the flowers for? Not her. Maybe his mother? “Kings Cross St. Pancras. Exit here for Royal Institute for the Blind”. Restless man has gone. Replaced by a man with Veldskoens (“Fellies” we used to call them in Zimbabwe). Black trousers, arms crossed. Lights flash off and on. The train rocks side to side. Back out into daylight. Grey brown brick walls flash by. Badoom, badoom. “In a way that is my subject too”: the woman opposite. “And we have to divide our costs”. “No Smoking” in the ubiquitous underground logo – blue horizontal bar across red circle. Sun streams in. Classic rail arches, pipes, cables. Farringdon – a spacious station. Dark cream brick, not tiles. “Change here for National Rail Services”. Warning beeps as the doors close. “I was concentrated on being smart”: a foreign woman in white shoes to the green shoed woman. The sun is bright now, streaming in and then we are underground again. In the next carriage, two young black men laugh and swap jokes. “Barbican. This is a Circle line train via Liverpool Street and Tower Hill”. Down the carriage a South American looking man, big camera, dark glasses, dark Latin hair, green and white hooped shirt, blazer, Nikon black and yellow camera strap around his neck. Moorgate: typical underground: grey tiled walls. “ASUS Talk to your Tablet”. Into the tunnel. Clink, grind. Blackness. Window reflections. All seats are occupied. A few people standing. Back above ground. Then Liverpool Street. Crowded platform. A lot of people get off, a lot get on. Woman pulling a large suitcase with wheels, probably from a British Rail train. Opposite: green shoed lady is gone. A lady with a yellow daffodil badge on a parka, grey trousers, about my age; clutches her handbag protectively. The next carriage is full. A girl in a hijab. The girl with the suitcase laughs and smiles, looks around the carriage. Maybe she is new to London. Aldgate: brown bricked, above ground. Warning beeps. The doors close. Squeak, grind, squeak, grind, kaboom. Lights off, lights on. A man in a blue polo shirt and grey jacket gives up his seat. Back underground. The grab rails are all yellow. The seats are blue with a yellow, green and purple pattern. “Mind the gap please. Mind the gap please” at Tower Hill. Warning beeps. Doors rattle shut. The train moves off in fits and starts. The next carriage is very full. Lights off, lights on. Lights off, lights on. Daffodil badge lady looks like she’s praying. Next to her could be her daughter, and her husband in a red jacket next to me. Monument station. Larger cream coloured tiles with a dragon design. CBS flat screen advertising panels: “8 p.m. Micro Monsters with David Attenborough”. “It’s about a ten minute walk but it will be nice and sunny”: a man with a Liverpool accent. “How do they know which side to open the doors?”, his daughter asks. “They do” he says. “But how” she says. “The driver does it”, he says. Daffodil badge lady plays with her t-shirt. Looks like she’s feeling too warm. Manor House: a big underground station with white tiles. A young black man – light blue pork pie hat, white t-shirt, dark blue cardigan, only buttoned in the middle. Gaggle of five teenage girls swarms off at Blackfriars. “You pay in, your boss pays in”. Into the tunnel. Lights off, lights on. Whine of acceleration. Clickety clunk. Daffodil lady family don’t talk to each other. Each in their own world, hypnotised by the rhythm of the underground. Temple: green tiles, cream tiles. “Feeling unwell? Seek help at the next station”. “Barking Blondes”. “Caulfield and Hume”. Into the tunnel. Rocking side to side, up and down. Brief daylight, back underground. Flash of sunlight. Embankment. Crowded platform. A kiosk on the platform: M&Ms, Bounty, Rolo, Picnic, Mars. A lot of people get on. White tiles with modern art type, diagonal, random coloured bars. Opposite: a young woman, earphones in, wears a large silver watch. “This is Westminster. Exit here for the Jubilee line. Exit here for Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, riverboat tours”. A man with a large camera stands in front of me, and noisily opens the window on the connecting door. He wears a Berghaus vest. Standing room is nearly all taken up. The next carriage appears even more crowded. Diagonally opposite, an Indian girl: a heart shaped pendant around her neck; a scarf and jeans. I think the camera man is trying to read what I’m writing – he lets out a big sigh. I’m in a good spot here in the corner. The carriage is packed. St. James’s Park. American accents: “Can you see where we are out there. St. James’s Park”. In the next, a man strokes the long hair of the woman with him. She grabs a seat when someone gets up. “This is Victoria”. A scrum as people try to get off and on at the same time. “People get angry don’t they? Are you alright?”: a father to his daughter. They squeeze through and stand in front of me. The next carriage looks absolutely jammed. The girl standing in front of me has a polka dot jacket and square framed glasses. Her father is young. He has a northern accent, wears brushed suede trousers. They play a sort of balancing game as the train speeds up and slows down. We stop between stations. “This is Sloane Square”. There are so many passengers that I can’t see the doors. Glimpses of the station: green tiles and a white design. Kiosks, advertisements. A  young man with his daughter and his young wife- or perhaps they are siblings. They check the tube map above the windows. Arms are raised, hands holding the ceiling grab rails. Wrists with bangles, forearms with black hair. Back to the surface to South Kensington. The sound of jets flying overhead. The crowd eases as people get off, and less people get on. The famous museums are near this station. Cream brick arches. Strobe effect as we move forward and back underground. Lights flash off and on. A young Indian girl with an Abercrombie and Fitch shirt and a cable design cardigan. Gloucester Road. “Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber”. The lady next to me asks which is the closest station to the Westfield Shopping Centre. I refer back in my notes and tell her that I think it is Shepherds’ Bush. “We’re literally just pulling into High Street Ken now. See you. By-ee”: a girl on a ‘phone. “Excuse me please”. It’s still very crowded. A small American boy with geeky red and black framed glasses and bright red baseball cap with a W design on the front. A man sneezes. “Bless you”, someone says. “Notting Hill Gate – Change for the Circle Line”. The platform at Notting Hill Gate is filled by people getting off the train. Next to me, an Asian bloke, looks like a student, folder under his arm, earphone inserted. “The next station is Bayswater”. In and out of tunnels. Bright sunlight, darkness. Light brown brick walls. “”, “SunSeeker”,”Kaftan £15”, “Show us your boohoos”, “Stunning! A must see! Summer in February”. I’ve now completed the main circle line loop. “The next station is Paddington”. A train goes very fast in the opposite direction, making a “Blap” sound. An American couple opposite, checking a map on their smartphone. “Therese Desqueyroux. In Cinemas and Curzon home cinema, June”. “Beady Eye: BE. The New Album 10.6.13”. “This train will terminate at Edgware Road. Passengers wishing to continue to Hammersmith please cross over the bridge to platform 4”. Lights flash off and on. The tunnel has yellow lights. The next carriage is three quarters full. A young man leans on his elbow the other side of the window, yawns, reads a letter. “This train is terminating here. Please take your belongings with you”. I get off, and cross over to platform 4. The Hammersmith and City line train is roomier, more airy, brighter, but with very few spare seats. I sit between two large men. The one on my left sniffs persistently and rubs his eyes with the heel of his hand, leans forward, restlessly. Paddington. “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform”. A man with a wheeled suitcase has trouble getting it across the gap. A young man in shorts opposite, wearing trainers, jiggling his feet incessantly. An ascending whine as the train speeds up, then descending as it slows. Above ground. Royal Oak. A middle eastern woman, wearing a black abaya, pulling a shopping trolley. A woman in a green striped top fixes her hair behind her head, attaches a hair band. A grey haired elderly woman, wears a cream leather jacket, holds a white leather handbag.  Westbourne Park. Cream painted brick. Trees. Grey railings. “Walk through carriages – at busy times you can move easily through the entire train to find space” – on this train there are no doors separating the carriages. Ladbroke Grove: an old station. “Ladbroke Grove for Portobello Road”. “Not all trains stop in this area. Please move further along the platform”. “The – the best electric car news”. Latimer Road. An old station with a carved wooden shelter. “Shurgard Self Storage”. There are dark clouds outside now. Spots of rain on the train windows. Wood Lane: a modern station. BBC Studios. “The next station is Shepherd’s Bush Market”. I decide to get off and re-visit the market. It’s raining. I have no jacket or umbrella. I change my mind and get straight back on. Goldhawk Road: old, brown brick building. Graffitied. High rise ‘60s flats. Wire fences. Breeze block. I can see into the backs of houses. Net curtains, Gingham curtains. Factory roofs, ladders. drainpipes, metal pivoting windows, train cleaning sheds, razor wire. “All change. Please take your belongings with you”. “A dozen reasons why you should choose Chiswick 500”. Platform 1. 1:36 p.m. “Bargains. To Let. Funky Offices. Nearby and Chiswick. From £9.50 per sq.ft.”. “Please shut the gate”.

Baker Street