THE sun rises over West London. My small crew and I have been holed up in the living room for eight hours, not daring to venture out.
For so many in this region, impending daylight signals a hazardous journey on foot to the shop for cigarette papers and sugary snacks. Pulling my hood as low as it will go, I head out. From the shadows comes a young woman, her hair dip-dyed blue as local custom dictates. She points into a dingy flat, its pine-effect laminate flooring strewn with Pret A Manger wrappers and dirty tights.
“This is where I live,” she pleads. “Look at it. It’s disgusting.” But I can’t get involved. It would break every journalistic rule and cause me to sweat a lot and be sick.
In the garage are other members of the British press, shuffling without purpose, avoiding eye contact. There’s Krishnan. I quickly duck behind a stand of greeting cards. One has a picture of a chimp sitting on a bidet. Weird. Krishnan hasn’t spotted me this time. But others aren’t so lucky. He’s accosted a terrified Emily Maitliss at the Krispy Kreme cabinet and is asking her to lift him up so he can see what’s on the top shelf. “The best ones,” he says, “are always at the top.”
There’s a small queue. I focus on my basket, filled with Muller Crunch Corners, and recite in my head ‘One packet of Golden Virginia and one packet of Rizlas, please’. Should I say ‘mate’? Is that what people do here? As I open my mouth it occurs to me: it’s a chimp on a bidet. I erupt into uncontrollable fits of laughter. Oh God, I can’t stop. No human should have to suffer like this.
Next thing I know I’m out in the street, a packet of Rizlas, some tobacco and £79.90 change in my balled-up fist. The check out man has seen this a thousand times. I never knew his name, but I owe him everything.