John Vane: The view from the vet’s

John Vane: The view from the vet’s

I ought to spend more time hanging around on street corners, because that way I would be able to observe more of what people who hang around on street corners do.

I have reached that conclusion because I took one of my cats to the vet. The surgery is on a corner where an alley meets a high street adjacent to a zebra crossing. Bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters whizz in, out and across, making pedestrians swerve and jump.

During the pandemic, when we pet-owners and our furry friends had to queue outside the vet’s, tripping over each other’s cat-carriers and dog leads as we took evasive action at the sudden, rapid approached of bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters, it was the junction of nervous breakdowns.

The good thing is that the vet’s waiting room has picture windows, so you can sit and watch the world outside without appearing weird. Appearing weird is everyone else’s job. When I say weird, I mean troubling or perturbing. I also mean depressing.

As my cat mewed to be let out of her carrier – no chance, not after the grief I had getting her in there – I watched a man, a scruffy man, maybe in his thirties but looking older, busy doing nothing outside the mini-market opposite, looking up and down the pavement and around.

A young woman approached the shop. The man approached her. He spoke to her. She spoke back, carrying on with trying to look at the fruit displayed outside. He spoke to her some more. Her body language said ‘please go away’. Bikes, e-bikes and box bikes hurtled past.

The woman went inside the shop. The man approached another man, spoke to him, got a shake of the head in reply. The man approached another women. Then, another man. Still nothing doing. He went into the shop. I craned my neck, wondering what might happen next.

What happened next was real life confirming what they say about pets taking after their owners, or vice-versa.

Already, there was an elderly woman on the other side of the waiting room sitting silently, almost invisibly, looking sort of in my direction without acknowledging me.

She had an upright cat-basket at her feet in which her cat sat silently, almost invisibly, looking sort of in my direction. Or maybe my cat’s direction.

Then, a small, young woman came in wearing what my team of female fashion researchers (see footnote) tells me is called a “romper” and trailing a tiny, fluffy, cream-coloured dog behind her, which perhaps doubles as a powder puff or feather duster in its spare time.

The man who had been busy doing nothing had not emerged from the shop. I wondered what he was doing in there. I wondered if I resemble my cat.

The vet called out my cat’s name. My cat went through to the consultation room, attached to me.

When we came back out, the elderly, silent woman, like her silent cat, appeared not to have moved. Perhaps she was only there in order to observe through the picture window the behaviour of people who hang around on street corners – and people in the vet’s waiting room – without appearing weird.

In the latter respect, I fear she failed, though I concede that my judgement was subjective.

The scruffy man had come out of the shop and resumed looking up and down the street, and all around. My cat and I left the vet’s, taking care not to catch his eye.

We made our way back to our home, at one point coming up behind a man walking very slowly along the pavement, swaying slightly from side to side, muttering to himself.

As my cat and I overtook him, I asked myself a question: is London progressing?

Footnote: There is no team of female fashion researchers.

PS: Please buy, read and adore my self-published London novel Frightgeist, available from or from independent bookshop Pages of Hackney.

Categories: Culture, John Vane's London Stories

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