To get to central London from my mother’s, you take a double-decker bus to Richmond, and then a train.  The bus stops are named after the nearest pub, “The Fox & Duck” in this case.

At Richmond, this man was on the opposite platform.  I wanted a picture because of the odd way he had wound his elbow around the back of his head, but by the time I’d got my camera out he’d stopped.

He had a bag full of machines to keep himself occupied, but he was more interested in the other man’s newspaper.  The London afternoon paper is free, and still as trashy as it always was – the 1970s Evening Standard headline I’ll never forget is “I Ate Nurse Judy”, about some travelers who had been stranded on top of a mountain after an air crash – it’s handed out at station entrances, and nowadays all its revenue comes from advertising.  Despite the free papers, most of the passengers I saw seemed to be more interested in tapping out messages on tiny telephones.  What are they doing?  Playing games?  Perhaps they’re reading newspapers online.

If I were a grumpy old man, I’d say that far too many of the passengers have their feet on the seats.

Through Sheen, Mortlake, Barnes, Putney, Wandsworth, Clapham Junction – this could be anywhere.  The only thing that marks it out as London is…well, nothing, really…

until you come to Queenstown Road (this stop for Battersea Dog’s Home).  You may remember Battersea from when I wrote about Battersea Power Station.  It’s still standing (just) derelict nearby.  My daughter suggested a new use for it, she would like to combine the two things Battersea is most famous for:

And then shortly before Waterloo comes the Shard, London’s new tallest building,

designed by the great Renzo Piano. The name comes from its top, which is composed of jagged bits of glass that extend up beyond the top storeys.

There’s nothing behind the glass but daylight, and there are gaps between the pieces, so the top is diaphanous and ephemeral.  It seems to be disappearing into the moving clouds,

like Frank Lloyd Wright’s futuristic, 1956 proposal for a mile-high skyscraper (why were his clouds lying diagonally, I wonder?)

Nowadays all over London are signs and announcements about what to do when you alight from a train or bus.  Is this word used elsewhere too?  I don’t think so, it’s a prissy, Pooterish sort of word. Anyway, at Waterloo I alighted, minding the gap, and headed for Bloomsbury, which I’ll show you tomorrow.

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