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Tottenham Court Road 5.45 am

This was written last year before Covid engulfed us all……..

As I’ve got older I seem to have shaken the habit of staying within the warmth and comfort of my bed in the mornings. Today, up at 4.45 am as excited as a schoolkid going on an outing. The reason, a fact-finding trip, coupled with a dry run on a new tour I’m working on.

A lot of the knowledge I acquire about my tours comes from sitting in front of a computer screen trawling through myriad websites. Couple this with the bedtime reading that has to be done, and you’ll see that it can be a hobby that leads to quite a sedentary lifestyle when I’m not conducting tours, so it was great to be out in the fresh air again.

Anyway, back to the 4.45 start. Nice journey in on the tube, with my destination being Goodge Street. If you come in on the Central line, there’s a change at Tottenham Court Road to reach the aforesaid station. It’s not that it’s a long walk through onto the Northern Line for the one-stop journey, but I just find it a bit of a pain, and the thought of waiting for the lifts at Goodge Street decided me that the best course of action would be to leave the station and walk the quarter of a mile or so up Tottenham Court Road.

The morning was one of those cool crisp starts to the day, and with very little traffic around it was nice to take in lungfuls of air without the added CO chaser. There was a fantastic range of smells on offer, which is something that I find gets jumbled up together later in the day, but at this time in the morning, they were easily separable. I’m not going to turn this into an infomercial, so let’s say that there’s a Scandy bakery Chain and the smell of cinnamon was heavenly. A little further up the street was the unmistakable earthy smell of freshly baked bread. Both of these had managed to overpower the ubiquitous warm greasy fries aroma, that I associate with that part of the street.

Pausing to adjust my earphones, I realised that there was a far nicer sound to listen to, rather than my playlist, as wave after wave of birdsong came from the trees around the Store Street junction. Now I’m no ornithologist, but I’m sure that was Blackbirds. Ok so not your Berkley Square gig, but nice to hear in such a built-up area.

And as I approached a well known fried chicken shop, what did I see skulking off? A rather thin and straggly Dog Fox, half a discarded chicken box in his jaws.

Standing outside Goodge Street station and looking directly over at the facade of Heals, I couldn’t help but think of a time when birdsong and wildlife would have been much more prevalent in the area. When instead of the big department store, I would have been looking at a small line of cottages known as Paradise Row and beyond that a small lake. Funny what your mind turns to when your senses aren’t being assaulted by the cacophony of modern-day life.

Even within the hour, the streets were coming to life and the decibel level had started to increase, and within two the aroma of fresh bread and cinnamon muffins was a distant memory as I squeezed myself into a train at Russell Square next to a person with slightly less than average personal hygiene!

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