Waiting at the bus stop across from the excellent Turkish shop down by the Aylesbury . . .
Guy in a wheelchair, cradling a Tennant’s Super while yelling into a mobile over the traffic. “I fucking told ‘im, he can’t, he fucking can’t!” while two women in scarves in the gypsy style, cradle fully swaddled babies. One woman, older, nudges the other and she goes out into the stream of people hurrying past, approaching first a well-dressed black guy, then some middle-age South London prole, then a woman pushing her own kid in a pram and so on, holding out her hand, begging but being sort of matter of fact about it, as if it were a business transaction. The older woman sees me watching, glances at me a couple of times, but neither woman approaches.
The guy in the wheelchair has stopped yelling into his mobile and has been joined by another guy in a wheelchair, also drinking Tennants. They have the ravaged, blunted, if genial faces of South London alcoholics – a few years ago you saw their type all over the place, though rarely in wheelchairs. They hang out a bit, smoking and drinking their Tennant’s, then the original guy says, “You shouldn’t ever bully someone. That’s how we were bullied, in school, remember? I don’t ever bully nobody now . . .”
Meanwhile a third woman with a baby has joined the other two, and all three are out hitting up people on the street. Then, unsuccessful, they convene at the bus stop, the older woman points up the street. I can’t make out what language they speak in – it might even be English. The woman sees me watching again and looks at me pointedly and shrugs, as if to say, “Well, we all have to make do somehow . . . ” and they push out into the crowd cradling their babies . . . .