Back home in my little New York town, the squirrels scurry up the trees the second they hear your footsteps nearby. You’d never, ever get one to climb up on your lap and sit there calmly for a photo. Not so in London parks as this friendly guy proves.
8am. 52 bus: Kensal Rise to Notting Hill
London is in a heat wave. The air is muggy and thick and unpleasant. People are sticky. The bus was sweltering. With every movement, a waft of body odour. Crowded, shoulder to shoulder on the lower deck.
For half hour, I tried to block out the type of noise that drills through any possibility of concentration – or sanity, for that matter: A small baby with a shrill, consistent, inconsolable scream; an old man continually tapping his cane on the metal pole, a steady ting, ting, ting, ting; bass beats of early-morning trance leaking through cheap headphones; a child’s endless monologue of gibberish enhanced by the negligent parent’s failure to respond.
Thank god it’s Friday.
Now, a tall caramel macchiato, open windows. Across the car park, translucent curtains flap seductively like the bottom of a white night dress waving in a slight breeze. Instead of babies and bass, there is the dull sound of traffic on Notting Hill Gate, the low bangs of distant construction – shouts, pounding, saws. There is, in near proximity to my open window, the high, melodic chirp of birds on a wire.