Tangled yarns from London's passers-through

016 : Jen Paton across the street from the National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square
Born in 1984 in San Diego, California. Jen Paton currently works as a vagabond Why London? Because she’s a harsh mistress. I just can’t quit. She digs the following London bits: the V&A, fish and chips, La Perla – the bar, curry and friendly cabbies. She is, however, a bit miffed by the cost of drinking, the cost of the movie theater, the smell of the tube and trying to get home after midnight. For more info on Jen Paton you should send an email or visit her photo blog..

image: David Zellaby

“'Thank you, London!' cries possibly-famous scruffy lead singer.”

Embodying all stereotypes of what is wrong with young women today, I clutch my latte, scowling at this grey day through my hungover haze. I’ve met up with my girlfriends this drizzly Saturday afternoon to get us a dose of culture by checking out the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit of Vanity Fair photographs.

But the exhibit is full until 4:30, and now I’m cranky and have a vague headache, a woozy stomach, and 3 and a half hours to kill in this crowded, tourist-teeming, smelly square of central London, when really I’d rather curl up in my tiny studio[1] reading Anna Karenina. After last night’s excessively gay dinner party, my little plan for venturing outside has lost its lustre.

We’re bemoaning our fate when a white van pulls up ahead of us. Its back doors spring open and three scruffily-groomed men burst forth. One plugs his guitar in while the second sets up his mic. A third – the drummer – settles into a throne-like seat in the back of the van. A crowd gathers, and an impromptu rock concert begins.

Traffic stops – the entire top deck of a double-decker bus swivels around, open-mouthed. A group of seven year old girls on a ‘Princess Birthday Tour’, decked out in neon tafetta skirts, start to boogie. Cell phone[2] cameras are raised in adulation as we wonder if these guys are famous and we just don’t recognise them.

It is unclear what the t-shirted young singer is singing. Something that sounds like ‘Penguins in your tea…can’t kill the flee DUH NAH NAH NAH NAHHH’.  The drummer is smugly holding the whole set together with a Mona Lisa smile on his face – as drummers do. One ebullient blonde chick is jumping up and down screaming as if we really were at a concert – as blonde chicks do. When they finish their set of two songs, we burst into applause.

‘Thank you, London!’ cries possibly-famous scruffy lead singer. The van folds up and drives away.

Newly bouyed by London’s awesomeness, I turn up a red-lanterned street (it’s Chinese New Year after all) to get some Orange Duck.

referenced works

  1. Whether our narrator means a place of artistic endeavour or a small flat here is uncertain, but it would seem safe to assume the latter, despite the heavy reading material mentioned immediately afterwards. The term ‘studio’ as applied to a dwelling combining every room except the bathroom into one, usually very small, space is just one of many silver-tongued estate-agentisms employed by the slippery masters of Britain’s most well-respected trade. ‘Bedsit’, despite its wistful, trampish charm, ceased to impress potential tenants at some point in the early eighties, although hitotoki London is considering campaigning for its return.

  2. It is at this point that those who have skipped the biography above will realise that they are reading the first London hitotoki by one of our trans-Atlantic cousins. Although spelling and punctuation have been localised, terms such as ‘cell phone’ have been retained to ensure an authentic authorial voice, and to get up the noses of people who are really bothered by that sort of thing. Come on, you’re reading the Internet, you should be impressed that it contains not a single instance of the term LOL. Smilies are currently being programmed into the hitotoki interface, so please feel free to include them in future submissions.

location information

  • Name: across the street from the National Portrait Gallery
  • Address: 2 St. Martin's Pl, London, WC2H 0HE
  • Time of story: Afternoon
  • Latitude: 51.509383501611595
  • Longitude: -0.12844562530517578
  • Map: Google Maps


  1. Doug Paton in San Diego. CA. USA thinks: Wow…..this gal can write!!!!
  2. bill thinks: I agree with Doug, she sure can write.


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