It is early morning. Between the house and the train station the only sign of life is a lone fox prowling the front gardens of the terraced houses. It stops in its tracks, looks back over its shoulder, then continues down the road nosing through bin bags in search of scraps. Upstairs, curtains are drawn and for a few more hours at least, the residents will slumber on until alarms break the silence of their bedrooms and announce a new working day. Some will wake to the vibration and ringtone of their mobile phone. Others will be roused by the high energy voice of a radio dj. Many will hit the snooze button of their alarm clock, roll over, and catch another five minutes of sleep. Oh precious, precious sleep! Who can blame them? The first autumn frost has covered the cars parked outside and the duvet offers a far cosier place to shelter.
On the 5.29am train to Charing Cross, the first train of the day into central London, bleary-eyed passengers sit in silence peering into the darkness outside. At each stop, a handful more workers get on. They slump into empty seats and sleepily rest their cheeks against the chilly windows. They close their eyes wishing they were still in bed, dreaming in many languages from Portuguese to Polish. There is no jostling, no fighting for a seat or desperate shouts of "can you move down the train please?!" In three hours time the carriages will be crammed with commuters on their way to offices across the capital. Men in suits, freshly showered and with hair coiffed. Women vainly attempting to apply mascara as the train lurches from side to side. But here on the 5.29, no one has really made much effort over their appearance. There are construction workers in heavy boots with paint-splattered trousers and stubbled chins. There are cleaners, transport workers, hotel chambermaids, and kitchen hands all of whom will change out of their hastily chosen clothes and into the uniforms that await them at their workplaces. It feel strange to be amongst them, to see delivery vans hurtle down the empty London thoroughfares that will soon become congested with all manner of vehicle, to see the bare shelves of Pret and Starbucks being stacked with croissants and muffins. I am seeing London in a different light, although in reality at such an early hour, there is no real light to speak of.
It is the end of British Summertime, another summertime only in name. The clocks have changed and as I reach the cafe, the sun is beginning to rise. The faint dawn glow will be the only natural light I will see for the next week; that and the five minutes of twilight I might glimpse on my way home. With a kitchen in the basement, exposure to natural daylight is going to be minimal over the winter, something that is a scarier prospect than a trick or treat visit from the Ghetto Boyz of Brockley. By the time the end of March comes around I will probably have the skin tone of Marilyn Manson and the eyesight of a mole. Now if I can just get the fashion bibles to sell "Blind Goth" as the look for Spring/Summer '09, it will all be worthwhile.