Planes whistle low over the austere Victorian housefronts and gables of Dulwich, somewhere up in the thick grey cloud cover of a balmy Summer night.
I pass tall, square, three storey town houses. The ones which have kept their integrity as homes have well-kept paintwork; jam-packed bookshelves and stylish light fixtures visible through ground floor bay windows.
The ones which have been divvied up into flats are drabber, less preserved. Off-white net curtains guard the privacy of tenants in living rooms-cum bedrooms, the tenants who are summoned separately by the different bells lining the front door.
Among these homes are private flats that used to be public shopfronts; bouji gastro pubs that used to be east end boozers.
I was sitting on the top level of the double decker bus going from Blackbird Leys to Oxford city centre, on my way to work. We were going down a road of semi-detached, 1930s houses, between the bridge over the ring road and Temple Cowley.
I had just taken my earphones out because I was getting a slight pain in one ear. I got The Fountainhead out of my bag. I was on the last 50 pages or so, and keen to try and sprint to the finish of such a marathon read.
I then heard the conversation between the mother and young boy sitting across the aisle.
“Mum, I wish we lived in one of these houses, because then it would be a proper house, and it would be cold, but its made of stone so it would be okay, oh look at that bird!”
“Stop going on,” she replied.
“Mum, imagine if one day the top of the bus slided off and landed in the middle of the room.”
“Look at the lovely grass and the cat. Mummy would you like a cat?”
“We’re not getting a cat.”
A few moments later, they got off the bus. I saw them walking down the street from the window. He was skipping, and she looked down at him and smiled as she took his hand in hers.