Sunday at the Royal

I was feeling melancholic

But it was Sunday afternoon

And Sundays seemed to bring about the most emotion

Especially lately

Southend in summer 

And everything was out


Smells of fish, chips, and ice cream

Continual screams drifted up 

From the amusement park rides

Some Sundays I made my way 

To the Royal Hotel bar

A pint helped to dilute the gloom 

Into something I could trust more

Sometimes the one pint turned into two

Making Sunday more acceptable

Like every Sunday afternoon 

A singer sat in the corner 

And played to the handful of people

I sat by the window

And looked out at the wide gaping mouth of the Thames

Seagulls drifted overhead

My thoughts drifted back to the last two days

And this strange maze we walk through

That we call life

All these bodies walking past 

Showing all this skin

Much of it like leather

The singer played out a rendition of

Losing my Religion

As drugged up fellow amused himself across the street

And the roller coaster screams continued to waft up

All these choices

All these roads

All these possible outcomes

Sometimes all we can do

Is sit by a window with a pint

And look back

And wonder how differently it might have looked

Or what on earth is next

As we cast the dice

And play the hand in front of us

While infinite paths lie ahead

And the world remains indifferent

As the big ferris wheel turns 

Like the sun that keeps coming around

As the ship sails by 

Only to return

As the tide recedes slowly 

Only to be back tomorrow

As the seagulls circle

It was after 6pm

Yazoo’s Only You was being bastardised

I needed a second pint

Thursdays at the Rising Sun

Thursdays at the Rising Sun pub

On a corner of Cloth Fair

Weeks of working towards a stressful strat day

Had left everyone worn and weary

And with that feeling of post-battle comfortable lazy lethargy

A harsh downpour of rain had passed and the sun had come out

And the Smithfield world dazzled

And the air smelled strangely pure and clean

Thursdays at the Rising Sun pub

Sometimes they could be a little dreary depending on company and mood

But not today

It was payday in late May and summer was coming

And we could feel it in the air

Our favourite bar lady Hanna warmed us with her smile

And her drinks

And the way her hair covered the left side of her face

Which I always found so alluring

And Tom from Data and Insights was here

Things were always better when Tom was around

All the good nights seemed to happen when he joined

So it goes

As it went from dusk to dark the music went from pop to Motown

As Tom told cycling stories to increasingly loud laughter

I leaned on the bar talking garbage to Rebecca

Making fun of her height and her accent

Which she seemed to like

We were all tired

But we drank on

Tired and relieved

Was better than wired and stressed

For once we felt like people who’d actually done something

Who’d achieved

The laughter got more hysterical and the music got under my skin

Tomorrow would be unproductive

The next few days would be, but who cared

Particularly then

Walking to the station with the usually serious, quiet Paul

As he rambled about some story about our CEO

I could relate and I laughed

Because I’d thought the same thing

He was amusing himself just as much as me

And I stared at the three towers of the Barbican

Looming over us

Like life reminding us that it was there

That tomorrow was there

Against the backdrop of brutal repetitions of this life

Some majestic triumphs of humanness

Shine out of the strange paradoxes

Thursdays at the Rising Sun pub

Some were better than others

When it comes

She came and sat next to me at the bus stop

She must have been 90 or so

And started making conversation

I was never one for small talk with people

But I was interested and attentive

She joked about drinking too much sherry

About the blonde boy across the road

She spoke about football

And the weather

And how she never looks at bus times any more

“They’ll come when they come”

Another old lady came and sat and I was relieved of talk duty

We all got on the bus together and that was the last of the talk

I watched her three rows in front of me

Some condition made her head twitch just a bit

And yet what I felt for her was a sort of envy

She’d done her innings

No one relied on her or expected anything of her


She was free to stare death in the face and smile with a sherry

It will come when it comes

Real people

Who knows why she had a French bulldog with her

At 8:30am going into central London

But it was midsummer

And everyone sweated

And you could almost pick out the people

Who hadn’t showered that morning

But I watched the dog

It was better than the usual sights at that hour

As the train filled

And filled

Soon I was in a sort of human sardine can

And we sweated and wished for air

Or something

I wished for Bank station, where there was usually an exodus of sorts

Just make it to Bank. Just make it to Bank.

But between Liverpool Street and Bank the train stopped

And we all stood there sweating in silence

And the dog started barking

What a beautiful natural sound

I smiled and glanced around

A handful of people were smiling

Those are the only real people on here I thought

The train eventually started up

We sweated on

I made it out ok, but a little wet

The breeze of summer ghosted through my shirt and kissed my ribs

I walked through Postman’s Park

Thinking about that dog