Tick, tock, tick, tock we've only got four days in this ’hood before we head further north. I figured I should take the opportunity to pop out at lunchtime and capture some of the local colour. I had flowers in mind but perhaps should aim for a spot of reportage and try and photograph a drug deal or drug bust take place. The problem is that I rarely am wearing footwear that could facilitate a quick getaway if required, so it’s probably best not to go looking for trouble.
Our office is smack bang (excuse the pun) in the middle of a renowned drug purveying location but as I generally take the main road on leaving if I'm in the office late, I've only seen a few possible transactions. I used to naively believe that the enthusiastic hand-shaking a friend made on meeting certain acquaintances was a very polite habit until it was explained that this was how they exchanged folded £20 notes and then paper wraps of cocaine. This new knowledge deprived me of my innocence but perhaps also forewarned me that when I see a car pull up on the road behind our office, someone appearing from the shadows to peer in the rolled-down car window and then after some mumbling swiftly followed by those handshakes again, I should perhaps cross the road. I think it's probably best not to ’notice’ anything in those situations!
The other morning I may have witnessed something, something that seemed innocuous enough until the mood changed. I'm picking my way along the not-friendly-for-high-heels cobbles and a women gets out of her car ahead of me and calls up to someone's window. Shortly after a small tightly knotted carrier bag wings its way from the balcony above and the woman grabs her booty and makes to leave. I notice she is watching me and smile thinly as she stares me out. My eye has been caught however, by some newly blossomed thing so I retrieve my camera from my bag to see if it’s worth my daily photograph. I didn't realise initially that now several people are staring/scowling at me or more likely my camera. I inspect the flower beds, compose a few shots and the resume my final few steps to the office. It's not when I stow my camera again I clock the small hostile audience. Hmmm what have I stumbled on? What I thought might be a small bag of albeit unfeasibly heavy socks may have been something entirely different. I've seen my fair share of gritty US crime dramas, and how drug and cash exchanges take place, have I inadvertently stumbled into the Whitechapel branch of The Wire? Best to move as quickly as my high heels will allow and again, notice nothing!
But today I'm thinking of pretty flowers, last year I'd been rather taken by a few welcome clumps of vibrant poppies living happily on a bit of waste ground in front of some flats. There's no chance of such a display as the tardy Spring has delayed any chance of that avenue of pleasure, but maybe there's something else on offer. I spot some very light pink and pale lemon tulips. A possibility maybe, but they do look rather weather-beaten sadly. I see an old man armed with a trowel staring intently and thought I should make some enthusiastic noises about my activities. “I like to photograph flowers” seemed a suitable opening in case he suspected me of more nefarious activities. He nods and looks me up and down and something make him think he should ask gruffly “whether I'd like to see his black tulips?” It sounded like a possible euphemism and recalling the ’stranger danger’ films of my childhood when old men wanted to show you their puppies generally, I wondered if I should back off. But black tulips, that does seem very enticing and frankly I'd probably be less interested in his puppies.
He sent me to walk down a rough little path, yet again I'm unsuitably shod for the occasion, but what's new, and carefully making my way down in the direction he pointed I was greeted by his black tulips. And what rather fabulous things they are. Why he had taken one glance at me and realise the insipid and bedraggled tulips weren't really my bag in favour of these exotic, velvet-petaled lovelies, I couldn't possibly imagine. “They’re called Queen of the Night” he added seemingly encouraged by my camera flourishing. That's even more fabulous, I may just have found my new favourite flowers!