The cat in the red plastic box stares resentfully through the bars as if to say “beneath the table of a Drury Lane cafe is no place for a Persian Blue.”
Beneath the Times plant’s blank facade the ornamental canal teems with grim-faced lunchtime joggers pounding the ghost-shipped wharves of Wapping with bright white-sneakered feet.
“He’s too old to be skateboarding down Graham Road,” I muse, looking out the window as the 55 dawdles at the lights; and then, for a moment, feel immeasurably sad.
“I will always love you,” he bellows as he wheels his cleaning cart down Gresham Street, trousers too short, grey hair almost gone, iPod clearly turned up to the max.
Cab-less and bewildered in Vauxhall’s afternoon heat, the micro-skirted blondes tottering up Newport Street – snazzy holdalls sagging on spaghetti-strapped shoulders – cast a ten-legged silhouette on the railway arches’ dusty brick.
From the top of the bright red climbing frame, the boy with the seventies afro eyes my camera suspiciously; his Staffy cross, paws wobbling on the narrow slats, does likewise.
“See you tomorrow, love,” says the barmaid, blustering out into the E10 afternoon. He nods, Wetherspoons pie half-eaten, coat still buttoned against the cold he feels much more these days.
“Sorry to bother you,” he says, wandering across, “but I need 73p for the train.” He’s vague, oddly distant, but knows precisely what it takes to get out of Peckham.
“Is the flood returning?” says the board outside Herne Hill United Church; but drivers descending to the plain below won’t be saved, for the temptations of Camberwell Green are many.
Outside Café Rouge, the man on the mobile is growing exasperated. “Seriously, babe, you can’t miss it!” He steps back, wild-eyed, surveys the façade. “It’s like this big… red café…”