The high flow of commuters carried me like a surfer on an almighty wave towards the ticket machines. People pushed and elbowed their way into a line, autonomously checking themselves through the barriers. I looked back briefly and wondered who was inside the bag and under the hat. Only two people were still amongst the clamour of the morning rush; the tired looking attendant in a luminous orange vest leaning inattentively against a metal rail and that person crumpled up in the blue sleeping bag, asleep on the concrete floor. I couldn't help but wonder whether the continuous beeping as people passed through the gates would piss him off, or whether it might be a comfort knowing there were other people around him.
After I'd taken the last telephone call and shut down my computer, I left the office, pulling the large glass doors closed behind me. I lifted my lapels up high around my ears and made my way home through the dimly lit streets of Mayfair. The wind had been bitter that day. It managed to breeze its way through my scarf and tie knots in my neck as I tensed up with the cold. I was looking forward to getting home, where a shepherd's pie supper was waiting for me in my snug little flat. I kept myself warm thinking of the candles lit on the coffee table, fleecy blankets to be wrapped up in, and an endless supply of hot water bottles. As I scurried through the subway, shivering, I noticed the blue sleeping bag had gone. I prayed he'd found somewhere warmer. The station cleaner was whistling, brushing away two squashed brown cardboard boxes that had been left grubby and ignored up against the concrete walls where the man in his sleeping bag had been. I contemplated rushing over, asking him nicely to stop, explaining that I thought they might actually belong to someone. But I was worried he'd think I was nuts, so I carried on walking to the escalators. The underground was crowded as usual, but for once I was rather grateful for the mass of bodies and closed my eyes as the warm, dirty air whooshed through my hair as the train pulled into the platform.
I knew it would be cold from the moment my eyes opened and I caught sight of the condensation dripping down the window panes. Wiggling my toes I lay there in the dim light for a minute, my duvet pulled up to my chin, enjoying having the warmth of someone lying next to me for a few seconds longer. A layer of morning frost covered the park as I trudged across it to reach the station. I still felt half asleep, awoken only slightly more by the cold biting the tops of my ears. The platform was full, and you could feel each person's sigh as they reached the top of the stairs from the ticket hall and saw the huddle of strangers crammed into the four metre spaces where the doors of the train were expected to stop.
Once aboard, the train jolted and spluttered its way towards Waterloo. I noticed after a few moments that a new announcement was being played over the loudspeaker in the carriage.
Due to network rail improvements, the subway connecting the tube and the train station at Vauxhall will be closed until March 2012. Passengers are advised to alight at Waterloo and use the Jubilee line to avoid congestion at Vauxhall station.
I woke up with a start and looked around the carriage. Commuters looked completely flabbergasted that their journeys were to be lengthened by around five minutes more that usual with a detour to Waterloo. I sighed, not because of my extended journey, but I wondered where the person in the blue sleeping bag would sleep now his subway had been closed. I decided not to follow the crowds to Waterloo and so I jumped off the train as it pulled into Vauxhall and made my way down the stairs. The lights were dim as I returned to the ticket hall, and the station seemed smaller. Possibly due to the wave of people being reduced to only a steady trickle, that wound its way through the diversions to find the route out to the tube. I had a longer time to glance over at the subway this time and had the space to stop and stare at the enormous blue chipboard blockade that had been nailed across the entrance to the subway. It was the same royal blue as the crumpled sleeping bag. As I pattered up the stairs and out into the cold morning air I hoped that he'd found somewhere else to sleep last night, a place that was warmer and where he might not have needed to sleep in a hat. I hoped he'd dream soundly tonight without those hollow clacks of heels on concrete that might have penetrated his dreams before.