• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 10

On Tooting Bec Common

Before breakfast, I take a stroll on Tooting Bec Common with my two budgerigars. These birds, Cyril and Lulu, gaze out from a cage which rests in the Silver Cross pram I push. At the end of the Common, we pause and I perform my breathing exercises.

Today, when I was drawing cool air into my lungs, I saw a man in a wax jacket trundling a cart along one of the Common’s paths. To judge by the strain on the man’s face, whatever was on the cart was heavy. I couldn’t see the burden, however, because a crimson cloth covered it.

With a look of relief, the man stopped and grabbed a handful of the cloth. He jerked his arm back and the cloth slipped away from two large cardboard boxes. As I breathed out, I noticed that holes the size of pound coins pierced the boxes’ top halves.

The man in the wax jacket clambered on to the cart and pulled back the cardboard lids. Two figures leapt out from beneath them and landed gracefully on the grass.

The figures—one female, one male—were clad as though they intended to exercise. But actually they were skilled dancers. In the morning chill of the Common, they executed a wonderful routine. It held my attention to such a degree I forgot what I was doing. It was only when I felt a pain in my chest that I realised I needed to breathe in.

Feeling dizzy, I gripped the pram’s handle and gulped in a mouthful of air. The dancers continued their performance. I glanced at the man in the wax jacket. He was leaning against the cart and staring at the sky while he drank the contents of a can of lemonade.

Finishing the can, the man crushed it in his fist. The noise of the collapsing metal startled the dancers. They ran back to the cart and sprang. Twisting and tumbling, they landed perfectly inside their boxes.


On Tooting Bec Common

With awkward and slow movements, the man in the wax jacket closed the lids, replaced the crimson cloth and pulled the cart back the way he had come.

I contemplated Cyril and Lulu. Should I release them from the cage and let them fly around the Common? But if I did, would they ever return?

I decided not to take such a chance.