My favourite time of the day, in London at least, is the middle of the night. I love driving across the city late at night, swooshing past all the pretty landmarks lit by the world’s most cinematic scattering of lampposts, courtesy city of London, aided by twinkling stars here and there, courtesy of God. London is, truly, a beautiful city. And it is definitely a swooshing action, the movement through the city, because there’s barely any traffic in the wee hours of the morning. There are a few tourists here and there, taking photos near Big Ben, her face shiny with an amber light that has far more attention-seeking gravitas than she offers during the day. There’s the couple over there sharing a midnight kiss, and the group of guys over there tumbling out of a pub, their spirits soaked in spirits. Then there’s me: tired, weary, but glad to be going home after a long day; tucked in the corner of a cab fighting off the sleep as we drive down that street that leads away from Buckingham palace: the one whose name I don’t know but always reminds me of the joyously gleeful look Kate Windsor (nee Middleton) had on her face as she took a post-wedding drive-about with her prince in a vintage Aston Martin; probably the coolest moment of last year’s royal wedding.
I’ve had many nights like this, where I start from the Eastern end of the city and make a gentle migration towards the Western end. I am always amazed by the beauty of London at this hour: driving past Parliament, past Embankment, across London Bridge, past Chelsea Bridge (different routes on different journeys) all so pretty (at least the bit in Central London). On a recent occasion, my (pre-booked) cab driver decided to be a bit “curmudgeonly” on multiple fronts: first he arrived 20 minutes early (better early than late, but why you gotta rush a sista?!), didn’t respond to my 2 attempts at a friendly hello when I got in the car (harrumph! I’ve had a long day, too but a little cheer helps the medicine go down), and then he turns on the radio to a Yoruba station which (while I love Yoruba as much as the next Osun/Osogbo gal) was obnoxiously loud (especially considering he didn’t (a) ask me if I wanted to have the radio on, or (b) know if I spoke/appreciated Yoruba). The final straw? He takes the exact route I asked him to avoid (double harrumph!).
I will admit the Yoruba station was pretty gnarly: the sounds reminded me of my time spent in Ibadan (or as someone once called it “the last stop on the path to civilization…”). As we approached my barrio, our reception faded and radio spat out static-laced strains of the hardcore Yoruba (no English-replacements here) that had been the soundtrack to the journey so far. The receiver finally gave up and switched over to another station playing Eagle Eye Cherry‘s Save Tonight. Given the circumstances and time of day, it seemed like the perfect song to close out the night.