Sunday 18 November 2012

London Street Scene

A pretty typical scene in eighteenth century London, and in the book 'Odes to the Big City'.


Sidney decided to leave the area of the Butchers and carried on walking past a tidy church, marvelling at the clean, white stone amongst the sturdy houses. He didn't notice the filth on the floor, the rats scurrying through the kennels, the stench of butchered animals. To him, everything looked grand, impressive, a fair city such as the one birthed by Romulus and Remus, or even the seat of Athena herself. To him, the oyster nan’s shriek of ‘Oysters Fresh!’ was music and the behatted dog dancing a jig to a penny whistle was entertainment. He had seen nothing like the dog jigging on his hind legs in all his days and he stopped to watch it, laughing at the way the little pom-pom on the dog's hat bounced with every movement on the dog. Every time the dog tired and rested back on all fours, the man stopped playing his penny whistle, growled an angry 'dance Cromwell' and hit the dog sharply with it until the dog forced itself back up again dancing. 
    While Sidney observed the comedy of the dog, there was a scuffle and the small crowd that had been watching with him pushed about. One of them cried out,
   'Stop Thief!' The call summoned more, people appeared from shop doors and alleyways, some even ran out their houses in a state of undress. Like a flock of geese they all honked 'Stop Thief' together and ran up the road after a young scampering figure. Sidney watched them, as he watched the dog, as one of the crowd caught up with the thief and searched his clothing for the stolen item. When it had been found, there was a cheer of pleasure, as one of crowd then proceeded to pick up the young rogue, which was easy to do as he could not have been much older than seven. They then threw the rascal to each other, like children playing a game, some of them caught him and some didn't. When someone didn't, the boy was hauled by one of the others and thrown into the air again. After a while the crowd grew bored of their game and set the child down, where he sat dazed and grizzling, before being shooed off in the other direction. Sidney wanted to applaud, thanking the crowd for putting on such an entertaining show, but as quickly as the crowd had formed, it had disbursed, each member returning to whatever errand had got them out of bed that morning.

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