Tangled yarns from London's passers-through

012 : Andrew Flynn on the King’s Road, Chelsea
Born in the 20th Century in London. Andrew Flynn currently works as a psychiatrist Why London? Because The Smoke gets in your eyes. He digs the following London bits: the view from the top of the Number 3 as it crosses the river, the way the Thames smells and the relief of surviving the Elephant & Castle roundabout on a bicycle. He is, however, a bit miffed by the price of beer, the tat on Oxford Street and the terror of facing the Elephant & Castle roundabout on a bicycle. For more info on Andrew Flynn you should send an email or visit Soulcomposting.

image: Andrew Flynn

“Nothing is forever, to live is to suffer, please give generously.”

It’s the first day of the Peter Jones[1] summer sale and the rain has not let up all morning, varying only it seems in its intensity. I can see each outward breath condensing into dandelion-fine white mist on my way to the parking ticket dispenser. It’s the end of June but it could easily be October if it were not for the green. I’m sticky damp by the time we get to the store where nothing, it is said, is ever knowingly undersold.

The sale is a disappointment. I suppose there’s a special irony about sales: the stuff that’s discounted is the stuff that won’t otherwise sell. If you like something you see - I mean, really like it - then the chances are it is indeed a truly likeable thing.[2] And, because of its inherent universal likeableness, it will inevitably, as night follows day, lack the little red tag that says: ‘Today you have been blessed’. Also, my excitable waist-high shopping companion only wanted to look at the toys. And it was crowded. So very, very crowded.

As we trudge back through the rain along the red brick streets, clutching our solitary duvet cover, trying to find where daddy left the car, I reflect on how we’ll laugh about this later. Irony, like fine brandy, is best enjoyed when it’s had time to mature, I decide.

The traffic is crawling along the stretch of the King’s Road in front of the store’s facade. I have a few moments to study the man in the red cloak and sandals holding a bucket and a sign. He must surely be collecting money, but he makes no approach to any passer-by, doesn’t even rattle his vessel. Sir Alan would most definitely not be impressed. He stays rooted to the spot, sometimes shifting his weight to the other foot, sometimes glancing up and down the street, but little else. I notice then that his is the calmest face here. I like to think that his sign says something spiritually wrong-footing like: ‘Nothing is forever, to live is to suffer, please give generously’.

But maybe he’s not collecting money at all. Perhaps he’s collecting a little bit of the suffering that passes in front of him on the pavement. With the rain and the traffic and the frustrations of the PJ sale, trade will probably pick up soon. He might even need a bigger bucket. I suspect there’ll be one on offer in the basement.

referenced works

  1. The Peter Jones shop was founded by Welsh draper Peter Jones, and has been at its current Sloane Square location since 1864. The company website claims that the residents of Chelsea consider it to be their ‘local corner shop’. This says a lot more about the residents of Chelsea than it does about the similarities between this posh department store and a newsagent’s. Only someone with servants would believe you could buy a pint of milk and a copy of Heat there.

  2. And a shop with a department called, I’m not joking, Footopia can only be crammed with intensely likeable things. The idea that the concept of feet can, even in jest, be associated with a place of supposedly ideal perfection is disgusting. Just ask the girl who files down the Duchess’s bunyons every Tuesday.

location information

  • Name: the King’s Road
  • Address: Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8EL
  • Time of story: Morning
  • Latitude: 51.492499698989036
  • Longitude: -0.15934467315673828
  • Map: Google Maps



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