I love waking up to London and the feeling that the city is fresh and new and has so much to offer. The heat hasn’t descended yet, and outside my window I can hear chattering schoolboys on their way to the school across the road, the sound of hard plastic wheels rolling across paving stones as charcoal suited men pull their document cases toward the tube, and the clip clap of high heels traversing the uneven potholed roads as prettily dressed women run to catch their bus into the city.

I lie in bed for the first few minutes, in that place somewhere between wide awake and a dreamlike state. I like to sleep with the blinds open, to let in the breeze at night. But my window faces that of a man across the street, and we have an uncannily similar living rhythm. He is usually my first thought of the day – “what gives me the better chance of avoiding him; if I get up now or in 5 minutes?” It never matters which one I choose, because invariably when I do finally rise from my bed and turn to look out the window, I’ll see the vague sleepy outline of my neighbour also beginning his morning rituals.  Sometimes I wonder if he too lies in bed thinking “I hope that girl isn’t getting out of bed at the same time as me today…” but mostly I assume he doesn’t give it a thought.

He’s a dancer. Ballroom I think. Every front window of his flat looks into the front windows of my flat, so it’s hard to avoid seeing him unless I close all the blinds. For most of the day music will drift across the street and into my bedroom – Spanish flamenco, the waltz, something faster, and I know if I look out the window he’ll be rehearsing or doing a class with some woman in front of his floor to ceiling studio-like mirror. Sometimes at night he sits in the dark in his boxer shorts playing on his computer.

Strange that I should know so much about a man I’ve never met and only recognise with two sheets of glass between us. I suspect if we passed each other on the street outside our homes, I wouldn’t recognise him. I don’t stand there watching him, and memorising his routine. But after three months of seeing him out of the corner of my eye, or catching a glimpse of him as he moves from room to room, I’ve become familiar with his presence. His companionship is welcome in its inevitability and silence.  He mirrors my movements as we prepare to greet the day…

Somewhere along the way I became an accidental vegetarian, and the morning is when I notice it most.

Because I can buy so much fruit and vege at the local farmers markets for such little money, in the beginning I was always forgetting to buy meat. Eventually I stopped even writing ‘meat’ or ‘chicken’ down on my shopping list, and now I rarely miss it, let alone think about it. The choice of beautiful fresh organic vegetables is boundless, and my evenings which were once sated with rare steak and salad, chicken casseroles and beef stir fry’s are now the domain of roasted sweet potatoes and cottage cheese, homemade tabbouleh, roasted vegetables drizzled with olive oil… I always considered vegetarian cooking as quite ‘grown up’. It never occurred to me it would be something I would enjoy, and eventually subscribe too. It’s just so much easier here – at least 50% of people I’ve met who are my age are vegetarians. Meat is expensive, it’s true – many of my friends stopped eating meat while at uni to save money, and decided to remain vegetarian even when they could afford meat. Quorn, Soya and tofu products come in so many different flavours and marinades, you don’t miss it….

So it’s surprised me recently that whenever I walk past this little Italian deli on the High st on my way to work, I am filled with an aching craving – I yearn to bite into one of the sickeningly huge bendy bacon, Jarlsburg  cheese and mayonnaise filled ciabbata’s that decorate the shop window. There’s no point succumbing – I tried that already and it made me feel sick. Instead I have to remain tempted, but abstain. The meat didn’t taste very nice, and I figured that made it pretty official – accidental vegetarian I will remain.

So now I sit on the top level of my double decker bus, having managed to pass the tempting bacon rolls, and I can give in to the most calming part of my day. Sitting in the front seat, surveying the world ahead of me. The bus rocks back and forth as it turns and winds through the back streets, almost like a cradle. Riding buses has become one of my favourite past-times. When I want to write, I can sit up there and be inspired. When I want to relax, I can close my eyes and just feel the rocking motion beneath me. It has the built in entertainment factor of people-watching and the additional thrilling moment when the bus driver takes a corner so fast you think you’ll fly out the window and be caught by the willowy branches scrapping across the glass.

 But in the mornings – that’s my favourite time on the bus. It’s usually quite empty. It’s a nice time to ring people back home and have a loud-bus-phone conversation without being embarrassed by being overheard. Or I can spread out across two seats with my newspaper. By the time I get to work I’m so relaxed it will take me an hour to get my brain back into gear. Mmmm…My favourite part of the day…

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