London Moments: Elbows Out


A faint slither of moon hangs behind the iconic skeleton of old gas cylinders. The setting sun sinks behind me lighting up the canal with its final dance across the glistening water. Cyclists whizz by unapologetically and runners pant past. But they stay just out of focus. My padded ears are filled with Sting’s purr, a nostalgic wave helps me drift away as I stroll home from work.

I’m tired and mentally untethering my frustrations, like a canal boat let loose to float gently downstream. I pause briefly, attempting to capture the scene, hold it together in a pixelated frame and store it away never to be seen again, in the depths of my cracked smartphone. It doesn’t matter though, it’s more about the process – the practice of seeing.

The fog of my frustrations is gradually clearing when I approach a woman and her daughter. They’re dawdling. I hardly notice them until I’m about to pass by, along with a speeding bike and red-faced runner. Aware of my deadened sense of hearing, I become alert and check over my shoulder before stepping in front of the couple. The girl has long white socks and is kicking her feet along the gravel, just off of the path.

“Just walk on the path like everyone else Alysha!” Her mum is huffing, “ Why are you walking in the nettles – you can’t just walk in the nettles because other people are on the path!”

Her exasperation is real, but not energised. The daughter mumbles back, “I’m not…”

“Walk on the path Alysha, people will just have to go round you.”

I can’t help but turn around, once I am a few strides ahead of the pair. The young girl is still sullenly plodding alongside the nettles. She must be in year seven. Her blazer is oversized, like her backpack. A welling sensation draws a smile across my face. I look ahead again, allowing the recognition to wash over me and slowly pull off my head phones, before turning back to them.

Fixing a smile on the mum,  I point at the young girl – both are now looking blankly back at me.

“Now, that is an excellent lesson in life!” I sing, waving the girl onto the path with suprising passion, “ Stay on that path – and stick your elbows out if you have to!”

Recognition now swims over the mother’s face, her eyes smile through the thick frames of her glasses and the girl laughs nervously. I pull the head phones back on and thank the universe. When you look properly, life is so clearly signposted – the answers are right in front of us. Previous frustrations fade into bold defiance. I stretch out my stride and wander into the middle of the path. No excuses, no apologies for taking up space.




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