I narrowly missed meeting Elvis Costello today. Although I'm not a big fan it would have been interesting to see him, maybe remind him of the jingle his dad wrote to advertise lemonade - or ask him if he ever changed his mind and decided he DID want to go to Chelsea.
As it was I was in London for two days to do a bit of work, see a friend who had come over from France to do some work and maybe take another friend to lunch. It was here, at the second meeting, that I narrowly missed Mr Costello: as I was making my lunch appointment outside BBC Broadcasting House: a landmark one can't fail to miss (and nor should you) once you come up from Oxford Street Tube Station and locate the road in which you can see the church spire (it's just beyond that)
All of this is, by a long way round, in order to draw you, dear reader, underground into the dark pit that is London Underground. Permanently overcrowded, constantly hot even in December and with minimal access for the disabled it is, nonetheless, a melting pot of humanity as commuters tut at the inconvenience of having to wait a whole two minutes for the next tube (they should try life in "the sticks" where missing a bus means...well, they may find your body eventually I guess...)
Oxford Circus is pretty much at the centre of London: the shops are still open and full to overflowing at 8 or 9 in the evening where little towns and cities like the one I live in have long since closed and gone to bed and, if asked to sell someone something would probably grunt before producing some kind of blunt weapon with nails in it: the kind that would, if it 'twere used, would really hurt.
Out in "the sticks" society tends to be more circumspect: there are still corners of this fair isle where the correct response to unusual behaviour is to purse ones lips, suck in air and tut loudly. One is expected to conform, don't you know.
Not like in London. Where you get all sorts.
Take for instance last night
I had finished my meal with my friend from France and we had parted - her with my gift of a painting clutched under her arm (the only way I get to paint these days is if I can find some poor unsuspecting soul to inflict one on as a "gift") - and me to get on the tube at Oxford Circus to my hotel. It's a journey of about 7-8 stops and I usually stay at the same place: just far enough out to be a bit cheaper (in London anywhere you don't have to take out a mortgage to buy a packet of sweets is considered "cheap")
At the second stop this bloke got on. I didn't take much notice of him at first: just your usual heavy metal fan, I guessed: with his long black hair in a pony tail, black jacket, black t-shirt, black leggings, black Doctor Martin boots: he had clearly taken The Stones's instruction to "paint it black" very seriously indeed.
And so I drifted off into thought and forgot him for a station or two, but as he was sitting opposite me it was inevitable that, from time to time, I would glance in his direction.
And it was on one of these glances that I realised that what I had taken for leggings were, in fact, thick black ladies tights.
And that above these he was wearing a pair of very girlish hot pants.
As you can imagine: by now I was kinda intrigued.
And it was around the time that I noticed that his t-shirt was not, as I had originally surmised, bearing the logo of Death Monsters From Hell (or insert heavy rock artiste of choice) but contained a glammed up picture of Carrie Fisher circa Star Wars (the original) that he pulled a pink makeup bag out of his satchel and began applying foundation.
Now you may be wondering at this point: why am I telling you this? I mean, he was just a guy out living his life doing the thing he wanted to do to make him happy and not hurting anyone else in the process, so where's the story bub?
Well: it's precisely that. It's because being in London nobody, and I mean ABSOLUTELY NOBODY, gave a s*&t. No one shot him a dirty look, no one tutted: nothing. He just put on his make-up, got off at his stop and walked off, completely confident in his lifestyle choice.
And I have to say: I kinda envied him. Not for the make-up: it really wasn't my shade...and the hot pants would have looked ridiculous below my sadly expanding gut (I am, of course, exaggerating here for comic effect. About the only time I ever wore makeup was during a brief career as an amateur actor when I was a weasel in wind in the willows): it was his confidence in doing all of the above in a crowded underground train.
I'm a big music fan (you may have noticed) and was around to see the tail end of Punk. I can still remember all the punks hanging around our city centre with their bright red, spiky hair and staples through their lips, belly buttons and assorted body parts. But I would never have made it as one: I wouldn't have got two streets before dying of embarrassment, curling up into a ball and wanting the earth to swallow me: I'm much happier shrinking into the background.
And let's face it: 2016 has been a pretty shitty one for showing understanding and compassion. We here in the UK were doing a pretty good job of being the stupidest country in the world at the start of the year until Donald Trump....but I won't go there other than to say that I recently met up with a devout Christian friend and, over dinner, said that he at least must be pleased: because surely everything that was happening was signs of the coming rapture (fortunately he has a good sense of humour)
And there was a part of me that, as this chap got off the train, wanted to chase after him, introduce myself and say: "Good show old bean. Life's too short to be living according to what other people expect of you" - but, of course being a natural coward I did nothing of the above and now shall never know the fuller story.
As it was I found myself in front of New Broadcasting House the next day explaining all of the above to my friend over coffee and we came to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, a world where this kind of freedom could still exist may not be so bad after all. After all: what's so funny about peace, love and understanding?????
Take it away Elvis...