There are people everywhere as we wander through the re-purposed railway arches from one tunnel to the next; screaming kids running around, parents chasing after them, disdainful teenagers and nonchalant twenty-something year olds in beanie hats, jeans, leather and plimsoll shoes and somewhere amongst this chaos, employees who are impossible to tell apart from the visitors, so similar do they look.
There’s noise too. Music, an insistent beat, provides a sonic wallpaper; voices raised above the din in shouting conversations, adults trying in vain to shepherd their children to where they should be; the ceaseless clatter of wheels on concrete and the sound of skateboards hitting the ground.
It’s a new world to me. I’ve never even considered entering skater territory before and though I’ve long been curious and eager to try my hand at it, I’ve always been too afraid and intimidated to know where to start. So it’s by some kind of strange miracle that I’ve been brave enough to find my way to this place, finally, to have my first-ever skateboarding lesson.
A multi-coloured striped carpet runs the length of the downward-sloping entrance into the Turbine Hall, a vast silver ball suspended overhead. Visitors lie on the ground in their groups, gazing upwards at the shining oddity, taking photographs of it on their phones.
Where the floor levels out, an installation of silver and orange pipes begins, the angular structures acting as the frames for sets of three-seater swings in bright plastic colours. Children run around wildly, chased by their parents, everyone trying to avoid flying feet. All around the hall, people attempt to form orderly queues next to the swing of their choice. It quickly becomes obvious that the adults are finding far more fun and joy in this than the kids, for whom this is just another regular playground attraction.
(Superflex: One, Two, Three, Swing! at the Tate Modern.)
Two women sit at a table in the library, poring over the puzzle pages of the weekend newspaper.
“I just don’t get people who do the crossword in pencil.”
“Well, it’s just in case they make a mistake, isn’t it? Then they can change it. I do that sometimes with the Sudoku, just because I find it really difficult.”
“I’d never do that. I trust myself.”
He sits in the seat nearest to the door, a black holdall at his feet. He looks around sixty, bald but with a scruffy beard peppered white and grey. On the left side of his neck is a surprising tattoo; a pair of extremely lifelike red lips.
As the train speeds away from the platform, I catch a brief glimpse of a young man seated inside the carriage. He’s dressed in black head-to-toe except for a woolly hat, a bright yellow thing with a diamond pattern knitted into it and fluffy green leaves sewn onto the top. It’s a pineapple hat.
She’s one of the regular commuters that I often see on my way to work in the mornings. It’s hard not to notice her; she has a fun and unique sense of style. Today, she is sporting an ensemble that includes glittery hot pink ankle boots, a denim jacket covered in variously-sized fluffy pom-poms and a turquoise beret.
The train grinds to a noisy stop at Charing Cross, doors sliding open to admit a flood of rush-hour commuters. City workers, tourists, students; all the usual suspects.
A navy-suited man plants himself in the space in front of me, putting his bag on the floor between his feet. He is serious-looking, his tidy dark hair just beginning to grey and a pair of glasses with thick black frames settled on his nose. His watch is a chunky silver affair and peeking out of the breast pocket of his suit jacket is a neatly folded pocket square.
However, as he reaches down into his briefcase to retrieve a newspaper, the hem of his trouser leg rides up just enough to reveal that he is wearing bright orange tiger-striped socks.