Leaving the music, we drift across the road with the first light. The street lamps are still oozing their sodium glow but the sky is already a fragile shade of blue. The hazy world seems freshly constructed – soft, sharp and new. Our bodies operate remotely as we move over the tarmac towards where our bicycles should be –
now hidden behind a muscular vehicle. Mine and Melanie’s cycles are locked either side of a lamppost – in our warm confusion Melanie unlocks her chain and a bicycle falls away from the lamppost against the gleaming paintwork of the car. All three of us stand still, looking at the bicycle as if it has acted on its own accord – grumpy at being left for so long.
Out of the corner of my eye I see an enormous man bouncing across the road – his arms so large that they are lifted away from his body by the layers of sinew and muscle. He rounds the car and the world collapses. Suddenly there is no air coming down my throat, flexing ripples of muscle are squeezing into my neck from all sides and everything in the world has shifted through 45º – I can see Melanie’s shocked face sideways against the sky.
What are you going to do about that… eh?… eh?…
– shaking my neck as he says this like a dog with a rabbit. Panicking, I try to speak but only a small hiss squeezes through the pipes in my neck. Like an air-hostess in a crisis I can hear Melanie calmly beginning to reason with the man. The more she speaks the more the muscles slacken. I can feel the warmth of his armpit and smell the maleness of his sweat and aftershave – my head is gradually released and the air flows back into my lungs.
A few years later and the wasteland paradise of clubs, arches and lock–ups have all been cleared away. Amongst the new things stored in these warehouses are the art students of Central Saint Martins. The school where I studied in Holborn was first merged with its neighbour to become Central Saint Martins, then this was amalgamated with a series of others under the banner of the London Institute which then grew further to become The University of the Arts. The beautiful purpose built buildings owned by the colleges in Holborn and Convent Garden have been sold and are now being made into hotels and shops. The students of the Central St Martins swipe cards to access their separate gleaming spaces.