Sunday, 23 October 2011

Bateman Street W1 – Saturday, 22/10/11, Midday


Those pale, double yellow lines are in the process of being gnawed off the bumpy road surface; gathered up in the tire tread; in the intermittent crawl of traffic bogged down in a maze of Soho streets narrowed by parked cars; by lorries and vans making deliveries. Made hazardous by the unpredictable behaviour of pedestrians. 

Stripes of tarmac reflect the layout of underground cables and pipelines. The gutter’s come away curb leaving rocky black gullies of varying depths to fill up with the water that slops from the buckets of window washers and streams down the gleaming plate glass of cafes and restaurants. This chain of small lakes lends the impression that you’ve arrived in the aftermath of an intense rain shower; one that vanished as quickly as it appeared, the dark clouds swallowed-up by the pale blue sky. 

Outside a restaurant, a tawdry, ornamental statue of a greyhound, squatting down on its haunches, shoulders its wear and tear with dignified indifference – large white chips in an otherwise smooth black finish. A noose of chain-link around the dog's neck fastens it to some railings that border a descending staircase.

At the far end of the street, the name of The Chinese Mutual Aid Workers Club is spelled out in bold gold letters in a panel above a wooden door that has been varnished to a rich bronze. On the black tiled porch step a tall glass lies on its side. 

A barred iron grill, mounted over an arched window with its top sheered off, restrains a large grey window box containing a half dead plant – a collection of sticks splayed out in multiple directions incongruously garnished with red berries  The cream fa├žade of the ground floor, shows patches of bare plaster work. On the two upper storeys the architect surrendered to neat rows of brown brick. Two columns of filled-in windows fringed in red brick.

An aluminium cigarette bin, mounted on the ground floor corner wall, has been plastered with a small square poster; the blocky, black and white pixels of a QR code awaiting the attentions of a mobile phone scanner.  

A man who could be homeless or dressed-down swerves between two couples:

“Excuse me I want to kill myself.”

“Nobody’s stopping you.” mutters one of the men darkly.