local colour

Last year, when they moved us out to W12 from W1, my commute doubled. Or rather, I was now forced to get up early to make it in on time – I used to be able to walk to work in only 15 minutes more than it now takes me on public transport. As a result of many similar stories, the area in which I work is referred to by staff, around 90% of the time, as “Fucking White City“. But then again, where else can one see the festive parade of humanity that one sees under the big top of the London Underground? There are certain people you see over and over again, so often you almost think it’s weird you’re not friends. Into this category falls the Fabulous Afro Lady, who’s got (obviously) amazing hair and great fashion sense and is moreover very friendly. We smile at each other when we wind up on the same train, and though we’ve never spoken I still think maybe sometime we will. Extra 80s Girl doesn’t inspire quite as much affection, though you’ve certainly got to respect her devotion and attention to detail. She looks to be about 18, and she’s embraced the 80s resurgence with unparalleled zeal. One day she was sporting the pink pumps, the flashdance top, the asymmetrical skirt, the headband and the leg warmers. I was impressed.

Anyway, today I was treated to a new character. The coffee vendor outside the Bethnal Green tube station (he’s told me his name, but I’ve forgotten it – he hasn’t forgotten mine, though, which makes me feel a bit more guilty with each passing day – but what if I ask him again and then forget again? Oh, never mind) knows most of his regulars and their orders. He also knows a good many of the Local Colour, including one I’d never seen before. I think the guy has Cerebral Palsy, but that’s not the point – he’s also clearly nuts. I mean, I suppose plenty of people go around in full jungle camo as a matter of course, but they’re mostly members of the Michigan Militia, right? Still, the real neon flashing crazy-person-indicator was the Vietnamese cone hat. After standing around nodding and laughing at the middle distance for a few minutes, off he went down into the station. By the time I got my coffee and went downstairs, he was gone.

On the platform, I spotted Fabulous Afro Lady, but was quickly sidetracked by a bizarre fashion choice. Now. I can understand the need to mix contemporary styles (hoodies, for instance) with traditional garments (say, saris). And I get (cognitively – God, I’m a snob) that there’s an appeal in hoodies emblazoned with the names of cities and their sports teams or educational establishments, both real and imaginary. But what I don’t get is the appeal of one emblazoned with CHICAGO SURF SCHOOL. Was it chosen for its colour? One hopes not: it was a lurid teal with purple lettering. Was it chosen for its irony? Lost on me. Chicago is, for the geographically challenged, exactly nowhere near any ocean. And though it is equipped with a large and lovely lake, I can assure you that the waves at the southern tip of Lake Michigan are never big enough to surf. And surely, surely no Chicago institution would choose those colours. I’m at a loss here, people. Maybe 80s girl could help me out.

That seems as good a place as any to stop blathering.