Life somewhat radically reduced, and changed, it is only on the weekends that I find time to go into the city. Weekends mean throngs of tourists, at this point with the cold, moving even slower than usual. So I like to go early on a Sunday morning, and part of the pleasure is attending the Matin’s at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Atmospheric: lighting enough to cast shadows on the golden mosaics on the ceilings. Carved pieces of perfection hovering over, the very bigness to one’s smallness – humbling. And of course the voices of angels in white tunics. Young voices for too short, but when I sit there, I have no doubt that God is there and shows us what we as men, are capable of.
Only yesterday, for some reason, I find myself behind a man. A man with an extraordinarily large, black backpack on the floor beside him. At first I did not notice, until he did something very strange. He began zipping and unzipping the various pockets in the bag. All the time. I am trying to concentrate but my eye is fixed on this bag and his active hand movements. What was it I thought, that he is searching for; water, glasses and why not just pick up the bag to retrieve them. He begins again, my heart is now starting to flutter and I have visions of Paris a few weeks ago rising up in my throat. Said man pulls forth the strangest thing. One of those bendy Boss type earphones. Not as I have seen before, like a earmuff made from leather -a bendy type thingy. And puts them on. And I am panicking. Why come to a service and put ear muffs on? Is the point not to HEAR the service? The man is sitting with an oversize backpack and listening to something else – and I begin to plan my escape mode. Don’t want to leave, just get out of the line of fire. People are walking in and out of St. Paul’s all the time, the place is packed, so few notice when I move a considerable distance behind my suspect, leaning towards one of the side naves should I need to run for cover. I cannot concentrate, I cannot breath properly, I cannot decide whether to speak to someone or shake my head and man up. I am paralysed and transfixed at the same time.
Nothing happened. I start rationalising that he is in need of audio support. I am being a racist, a scare monger, a whatever on a Sunday morning in Church. Is this the way we are going to live now – suspicious and fearful? Not at all. I think I was just being tested. If it were a real situation, would I have run or stayed?
To calm the nerves and get over the paranoia, went to Paul in the courtyard for my habitual Mocha and Croissant. My little bit of Paris when Paris is not there. Even the French music makes me want to write to Hemingway. By then the sun, liquid, flooded the city. The temperature dropped, the gloves came off and I headed down to the river to revel in the Spring day. Everyone seemed euphoric after a spell of dark days.
I do not want my city to become a place of questioning. London is, and so should I be.