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In the Aquarium

Love & Death Poems
Poems of London
Phone Message Prose Poems



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Harriet Duncan
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Awful Sights
- OR -

Nasty titbits that I had the displeasure to witness, performed by vile persons unaware they were being observed.

The view from the learning centre window looked out over the rooftops of Deptford towards the Greenwich Dome. Occasionally tall ships were visible moving between buildings as if they were sailing down roads. If you looked out with your face pressed against the glass you could see the college courtyard below. And on Thursdays at 5.00pm Scott and I began to notice a strange tramp who would sit on a chosen bench, stick a cigarette up his nose and smoke it down to the stump without removing it once.

Sitting in Yo! Sushi watching the plates go round. Our waiter was tired and grumpy with his colleagues but finally went on his break. He sat on the other side of the restaurant eating with chopsticks, after which he watched the conveyor-belt and picked his nose aimlessly before beginning work again.

Sunday became a hot sultry evening which Jonathan and I spent wandering around Greenwich Park looking at the Cutty Sark and eating ice cream. Sitting on the platform of the Docklands Light Railway waiting for the train home we noticed a group of three friends returning from playing tennis, one of whom was wearning track pants made from some floppy olive green fabric. In conversation he slipped his hand down the back of his trousers, unobserved by his companions and scratched his itchy bottom, digging into the crack. On removal of his hand he surreptitiously smelled his fingers for lingering odour.

High summer 1977. Frequent trips to the playground across the street meant that local children became familiar even if they weren't friends. One small long dark haired girl who was out unsupervised was hanging around the gate where she made a great find for one sent out with no money or provisions. She grabbed up the chocolate and bit into it greedily only then realising that it was dogshit left behind as was usual in those prepoopy-scooper days.

The morning train was crowded. A standing man had his laptop in a bag between his feet. He held the rail with one hand to steady himself only when the journey became turbulent. He was playing with a palm PC-organiser and in his concentration scratched his face, his fingers moving over a bump on his cheek which they determined to be a spot. They gripped and pressed, popping a ball of hardened pus out which he looked at and proceeded to eat, as a child would a bogey.

Night buses on the 29 route have long been known to be champion holders of the nastiest ride alive award due to the awful occurrences that take place on them. My own experiences are epitomised by two seperate incidences both equally vile due to the total sensation incurred.

Travelling home by night bus is usually a nightmare due to the crowded nature caused by a much-reduced service. On this occasion myself and companion were lucky enough to have a seat, albeit in a less desirable position at the back of the top deck. Two seats ahead of us on the opposite side of the aisle were a girl in a white fake fur coat and her boyfriend. Behind her was a man who appeared to be reeling from the effects of over-indulgence partaken that evening. The trundling of the bus appeared to be making him feel gradually worse and worse as he turned paler and paler, eventually becoming quite ashen. Whereupon his eyes rolled back in his head, his mouth bulged like a stuffed hamster and he projectile vomited all over the woman's white coat. it was easy to tell that his tipple that evening had been the infamous Perno and Black, due to the arresting sickly sweet fragrance that emitted from the vomit. The blackcurrant was evident from the purplish stain sinking slowly into the white fur coat. Once started the man couldn't stop and managed to vomit enough liquid that it rolled up and down with the bus's lurching forcing passengers to raise their feet to let it pass.

One winter evening having chosen to leave earlier than usual we were suprised to find the top deck very empty. A couple of stops down the road a large huffing man rushed upstairs and went straight to the back of the bus. Once the bus had pulled off to continue its journey we became aware of a strange noise that sounded like someone pouring water from a height. Only when the offending liquid rolled under our feet, with the backs of our shoes behaving like weirs , and the rising smell clenched the backs of our throats worse than any gentlemen's toilet, did we realise that the man on the back of the bus had taken a piss on the floor. Whereupon the remaining passengers on the top deck had to decant to the lower deck to escape the awful stench.

Harriet Duncan 1995 - 2003