Friday, 7 December 2012

Free cash

Just a traffic accident, or a ram-raid attack on a City Road cash kiosk?

So what's gong on here? A smashed kiosk is roped off with police tape, sides leaning drunkenly, wires trailing loose and debris scattered around. People stop and take pictures on their iPhones, speculate about what might have happened and move on. The kiosk has signs proclaiming 'Free' and 'Cash Withdrawals' and the company name, 'Cashzone (Every transaction counts)'. A smaller sticker reads 'Ink Stain System Fitted' and, confusingly, 'No Smoking'. The kiosk itself seems to be a converted telephone booth, perhaps not the most suitable use for such a flimsy structure, but the cash machine is still in there, not working, but not noticeably damaged and presumably still full of ten and twenty pound notes. The machine nestles at a angle among the smashed sides, along with an impressively large electric siren and oddly, a bundle of brightly coloured nylon fabric that might be a tent or some kind of safety wear.

Lying behind the rubbish bin, a completely detached sign misleadingly tells you 'Free Cash'. Maybe free cash was the idea behind this, a ram-raid attempt that failed. Cashzone's website reports a recent ram-raid on a convenience store in Warwickshire but doesn't mention this, so maybe it's just the result of bad driving, a lorry reversing inaccurately or a drunken driver losing control. Either way, a graphic reminder that we're not entirely insulated from the possibility of violence.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Warren Street Blues

A grey Thursday morning outside Warren Street Tube station, London, England. Moderately cold with a grey sky and the distinct likelihood of rain. The free magazine guys are busy trying to give away magazines and the bag stall man is busy setting up his stall. Rattling around with his aluminium stepladder, opening up the folding sides of the stall, transforming it like an origami model from a small enclosed kiosk to a much larger covered display, hanging his bags up and plugging in the lights. The ugly mirror glass office block opposite is neatly framed by the curved facades of University College Hospital (more ugly glass, some of it green) and the Underground station (which is dignified brick and Portland stone). There's a row of Boris bikes with wet saddles and few takers. Buses and taxis, lorries and white vans grind past, and a seemingly endless stream of people emerges from the Underground and heads south down Tottenham Court Road, muffled up in hats and scarves, ignoring each other and intent on texting or phone calls, or just focusing directly ahead. All of which might seem thoroughly depressing - at least until a girl in leather hot pants and a red bobble hat glides past inexpertly on her online skates, bumping into people as she goes. I stand still for a moment to take it all in, and strangely enough don't wish I was on a sunny beach in the Mediterranean or stoking up a peat fire in the Outer Hebrides. Think of all those people stuck on a sheep station in the outback or some godforsaken subdivision in the Midwest, let alone all the real hellholes, and just be glad to live somewhere civilised.