Sunday, January 08, 2017

Here comes the piss truck

“Here comes the piss truck” they were yelling and laughing. I don’t know why they call it that, but its arrival felt like a regular proceeding to the end of another working day for the Columbia Road Flower Market. Street markets are strange, in the sense that they have a single day working week; albeit an intense one at that.

Stranger is the three-sided football league we play in. A single, two-hour endeavour, first Sunday of each month. Less stranger is ‘planned engineering works’ that take place across various public transport infrastructure networks of London. Which is why, I had to cycle on a city bike to Tower Bridge, and run to New Cross thereafter, courtesy of my bike’s broken pedal and the festive period that prevented a quick fix.

That stretch of South London on any given Sunday is primarily home to communities of Afro-Caribbean origin who stroll between their homes and those of their relatives and their local centres of religious affairs. Congregations in front of brickwork, concrete or makeshift churches, Victorian, postwar, or semi-urban houses are celebrations of colour and glamour.

Running on a side street somewhere between South Bermondsey and Surrey Quays, I came across a lady, all dressed in white except for her golden necklace and the grey earphone through which she was euphorically talking to a relative. Her posture could not have been any calmer, though. She was taking small and calculated steps and owned the very pavement we shared for those few seconds. She smelled of summer; the streets smelled of River Thames’s low tide. By the time it reaches London, the river picks up some salt and it was this indistinct trace of smell of salt that was helping my head keep clear.

The game went well; we did a good job. It’s now 3 games without a loss; a straight out win, followed by two winning draws. We jumped on the unreliable Overground on the way back, which was now running a more regular service. I took my usual route from the station but instead of cutting directly across to my street, my feet dragged me across Columbia Road (next street up) to see the market day come to its conclusion. Only few more stalls were up, and there has been carnage of flowers; those that did not make the cut and were not walked home by young couples and aspiring flatmates.
A very loud truck started its engine and started rolling up the street. When it finally stopped before the last stall standing with a loud roar, the driver jumped out to the yells and laughs of the traders. They called it the ‘piss truck’. Another week had just ended with little out of the ordinary. The ‘piss truck’ was about to start its duty of sweeping away the end of the week as I hastily, but calmly, took this picture.