Late Night London

Although I love living in a small Norfolk village, where there are no shops or street lights, I miss the sounds, smells and sights of London and relish the opportunity of visiting my daughter, who still lives between Clapham Common and Battersea. I love the way buses pulse like blood through the veins of the city and the Underground rumbles below my feet. I hum along to the backing track of traffic and sirens. On a dark autumn evening, fixed in the halos of street lights and neon signs, I catch glimpses of passing office workers and shoppers on their way home, and homeless people in shop door-ways. There’s a sharp feeling of tension while waiting for the bus. Taxis circle like sharks. A drunk stumbles against a rubbish bin. Once the bus ride is over, there’s the long walk across the common and up a road lined tightly with parked cars and littered with take-away cartons.

bright-eyed fox appears
under city-light sulphur
leaching rust from fur

© Kim M. Russell, 2016

An Urban Fox Forages At Dawn In London
 Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Haibun Monday # 23 – contemporary cityscape

This week’s Haibun Monday prompt is brought to us by Björn, who has asked us to take it to a contemporary level, still sparse prose in the first person and present tense, but bringing in the cityscape: we should look for the bad part of town, the light worms of passing traffic, the beat from distant clubs, using a Bob Dylan quote as a springboard: ‘The land created me. I’m wild and lonesome. Even as I travel the cities, I’m more at home in the vacant lots.’ The haiku should juxtapose the prose rather than complement it. 

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64 thoughts on “Late Night London

    1. Thank you, Jane. My daughter will be moving out of London soon, so I won’t be getting my fix . I’ll have to find an excuse to visit the few friends I have left there – most of my friends and family have moved away. People in London have become very wary of foxes – one woman went into her six year old daughter’s bedroom and found a fox licking the child’s face – it had got in through a window! They roam the streets and rummage in litter bins. Some have been known to attack cats.

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  1. We have a resident coyote that walks the street late at night. Cats disappear, so I have a rollcall around 9pm. We also have a resident raccoon who walks from the neighborhood garden through drivaways to the kudzu behind us…9 acres of this stuff. My neighbors want to shoot the coyote, but we have taken his land…and all the others. I tell them he is a Cherokee Spirit guide and nothing good will happen to our street if he is killed. So far, he still roams the night.

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    1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real coyote or a raccoon. They seem so exotic to me and yet they are probably ordinary, everyday animals where you live. Don’t let them shoot the coyote!

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      1. I’ve never seen a coyote here, but it seems funny to me to think of a raccoon as exotic. They’re all over the place here. We even had a mother and babies living under the eave of our attic–had to call someone to trap them for us.

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      2. I love foxes….but one licking a child’s face. LOL! Perhaps that would be the most scary thing to me. However, I have seen foxes who act like dogs or cats….beautiful animals….beautiful spirits. We need to coexist with all other species…except big spiders. I do have limits. LOL!

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  2. Hmm.. stuck in city
    liFe.. i’m quiet sure
    i too.. would once
    again.. bEcoMe
    less.. A fox
    lost
    from a Den of Play..
    with so much less to say..
    A FoRRest i live iN/as iNspiRes
    so many Fox FLutes paWs
    spRinGinG
    noW iN fOur
    SeAsonS Now
    oF aS FloweRinG
    CreaTivity FReED..
    And A best compliment
    sPeaKinG of Dance in A
    Bigger City Super WaLmArt
    Store noW.. pasSinG three
    years now of public dance is
    when the worn customer service
    manager at the return place says..
    everyday you come in here you BRinG
    SpRinG no matter what time of year iT is..
    considering i spent 66 months as a shut-in
    with little to no words read or written the
    first 33 months of that and stumbling like
    a nursing home patient not even able to
    prepare a TV
    Dinner with
    eYes
    and ears
    that wouldn’t
    work.. faint at
    every step in standing
    hUman way.. i don’t kNow
    And FeeL eXactly how i got
    hEre my FriEnd but mY liFe
    is both proof of MiracleS and
    some hiGher poTenTial of beinG
    Human that iSReAL as the 12 milLion
    words and 6 thousand miles of dance
    that came after that first 33 and 66 months of
    null
    and
    void..
    somenows this
    is worth sharing
    even if it breaks the
    Speed liMits of wordS in Heaven..
    iN oft cOld CitieS and homeless places of online hell..;)

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  3. Wonderful post. I’ve only been to London once, and I was only about 10 years old (and that was a long time ago).
    I’m sure there are foxes that come out at night here, and even in Philadelphia, but the only one I’ve ever seen was in her “den” by the river. We do get deer in our backyard though and wild turkeys. 🙂

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    1. You have wild turkeys and we have Bernard Matthews – the turkey company in Norfolk, England, infamous for battery turkeys and his staff mistreating them. They make turkey nuggets amongst other things. I always liked the sound of Philadelphia.

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  4. It is always a joy, an unexpected thrill to come upon bear, wolves, coyote, raccoons, deer threading the concrete canyons, and we are to blame, constructing our suburbs out into their habitats, We have green belts throughout our west coast cities, and critters thrive hiding in plain sight.

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    1. I would love to see bears, wolves, raccoons and other animals we don’t have over here. I follow a wolf conservation page on Facebook. However, I do get to enjoy the British wildlife in our wild garden and the surrounding countryside.

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  5. I specially admire how you painted the city life with vibrancy and energy:

    I love the way buses pulse like blood through the veins of the city and the Underground rumbles below my feet. I hum along to the backing track of traffic and sirens. and:

    Taxis circle like sharks. Love your share Kim ~

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  6. Humming to the sounds of the city is something I have never imagined so I found this very intriguing. The fox was such a nice surprise at the end…adding that third dimension to your haibun. I also enjoyed learning more about the city of London. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Laura. It can feel threatening on the Common and when the riots were going on at Clapham Junction in the summer of 2011, I was so worried. But it’s also a brilliant part of south London for restaurants, pubs and shops, cultural events and other activities. Unfortunately, Ellen and her husband will be moving to Guildford in November or December. I’ll miss visiting my old stomping ground!

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      1. The strange thing is that I see more foxes in London than I do up here – and I know they exist because they raid my friend’s chicken house every so often. They don’t seem to like my garden – although I have hedgehogs, squirrels, deer, pheasants, owls and various types of mice. I do like Guildford – my best and one of my oldest friends lived there for a while before she moved to Islington and then Brighton. She’s still down in West Sussex, just further along the coast.

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  7. Okay — I’m reading all these this morning and thinking, wow…everyone’s gone to the dark side of the city and I sure didn’t do that. And then I read your explanation below your haibun and realize I must have been in a fog when I read the prompt….did not realize that were were supposed to write about the underbelly. Ah well…….my nature is to be the pollyanna so that’s just the way it goes.
    But to your haibun here — I especially love the juxtapositioning of the haiku and them mention of the “leaching rust from fur” — (wonderful photo choice) —- because, in essence, there is so much rust in the gritty part of the city. I also loved your description of the buses — Have been to London 4 times and love the city. Even in the grey of cloudy and damp days, it has a vibrancy to it. I do understand the missing it — funny — you’re trasplanted in the opposite direction from me….kindred spirits in a way — privileged to have both experiences, right?

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    1. Thank you, Lillian. When I was writing the haibun, I wanted to get the fox in, because we see them all the time around Clapham Common and also because they remind me of autumn, with their rusty, russet colours. And you’re right, there is so much rust in the gritty part of the city. I moved from London to another city in Germany, then to the depths of the country in Ireland, back to London and then to the country again! This time, I feel like I belong here – Norfolk is so beautiful, we’re right near the coats but have the advantage of being not too far from Norwich – and yes, I do feel privileged to have had both experiences. 🙂

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  8. I so enjoyed your observations, Kim…so like many other cities worldwide I suppose. I was most taken with your haiku and that photo of the fox in the urban setting. Just where does a fox live in the city? We also live where raccoons are plentiful as well as possums. The other day heading to watch Mira, I had to slow down for a baby armadillo crossing the road! I’ve seen fox in our backyard and a bobcat where Mira lives. We’re surrounded by wildlife…which I love!

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    1. Thank you, Gayle! I think that, where my daughter lives, the foxes have dens on the common, although they have been known to make their homes in gardens. I can’t imagine seeing an armadillo crossing the road – if we had them over here there would be signs like the ones we have for frogs: armadillo crossing!

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      1. Haha…cute about the frog signs, Kim. We have tortoise crossing signs nearby where gopher tortoises make their homes. They are a protected species here in the U.S. I’ve had to stop for them too!

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