Friday, May 28, 2004

Concourse Chic

I enjoy working in central London for many reasons – chief among them the chance to see some genuinely different sights. One lunchtime Kim and I met on the Victoria Station concourse for lunch, we were officially going to find somewhere to sit for lunch but something even better turned up. As I was heading towards our meeting spot I walked past a very elegant couple in tux and ball dress, unusual to say the least at 12.30 in the afternoon. I found Kim and on the way back saw this couple standing by a Haagen Daaz promotions stall with another couple in elegant dancing gear.

I made Kim lurk with me as I watched them organize something, turn on a stereo, and then start to tango and salsa around the stand. I was enchanted – one couple were a distinguished and very tall man with grey hair, his partner a tall stunning blonde in a strapless red ball gown. The other couple were shorter than me, two slight and very dark South Americans, the gentleman in a tux, the woman in a tiny red velvet dress with fishnet stockings. The promotions girls started handing out free tubs of Haagen Daaz to the watching crowd and Kim and I settled down for our free lunchtime concert.

At first I just admired the dancing. The tall couple were more serious with their dancing, they were elegant and cool, placing their feet just so and smiling coolly at each other and the crowd. The South American couple were much warmer in their interpretation of their dance, moving faster and more seductively, almost making love in the middle of Victoria Station, yet with a cheeky smile they would target each member of the crowd and glide seductively over until they would both make eye contact with you and invite you, in accented English, to join them. I was seriously wavering between an urgent desire to dance (I had my dancing heels on) and the potential embarrassment of being a beginner in front of such a large crowd – and I think they sensed it. In the end the only thing that swayed me was that the gentleman concerned was shorter than me!

Once a big enough crowd, munching on free ice creams, had formed around the dancers the fun began. London is generally so distracting that when you have been here long enough you learn to filter the unusual out, especially if you are due somewhere. Victoria Station is a huge and important station and thus two couples dancing for a crowd in front of ticket barriers was always going to be interesting. People would be striding, head down or eyes unfocussed, across the floor and suddenly find themselves face to face with the elegant couple who would nod their heads and glide out of their way, or have to try and not trip over the sexier couple who would grin mischievously up at them and follow them across the empty space as they tried to escape. You could spot some victims from a mile away and their reactions were always different – some froze and then reversed, some froze and then carried on, some never ACTUALLY noticed and some noticed suddenly and were either offended or pleased by the slightly unusual circumstances.

The best reaction was a crowd member who, after about ten minutes watching, left, and returned with a single flower for both the ladies. A fitting appreciation for a beautiful free gift to anyone's London weekday.