Those up at 5am are the mechanics of the city. They suffer and endure the others’ mistakes, and silently, relentlessly, they are those who must clear the debris from the night before. It’s thankless but vital that they do.
Mister Workard is up at 5am. A bitter black coffee is his companion, daily, bought from Mister Grafter, who is up at 4, always. Mister Grafter can be relied upon to serve hot drinks in paper cups, forever. The Metro is Mister Workard’s morning distraction, and he is satisfied at finding five numbers in the Sudoku grid as his train is coerced, shivering, into the city.
At this time of the morning London is still and eery with slumber. But soon its tension will rise with the sun. As sleep falls away its walkers are forced to assume position, to arm themselves against the oncoming day and to expect the worst from it.
Yellow polystyrene trays lie on chewing-gummed pavements, their smears of congealed ketchup keep curls of purple onion in place in a pungent, colourful work of Modern Art. Mister Workard has never put it into words, but he is struck by how much the bright filth is like the sunrise before him, rendering the all-encompassing construction all the more gloomy and all the more destructive.
Mister Workard and Mister Grafter are the cogs and conveyors. They are the first to meet the city, and they oil it and love it unconditionally. They’ll kiss it goodnight at the end, too, but that’s an entire working day away, later, in the dark.