Ambiance – Time to Stand and Stare


What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
from Leisure by William Henry Davies

I have commented before about appreciating ambiance. My choice of word may be entirely incorrect, but I’ll go with for now. The gist of the idea is being aware when the place where you happen to be, in a particular moment and without conscious mental effort creates an unexpected, even surprising, charge of good feeling. I noted previously two occasions when I experienced an unanticipated uplift by the ambiance of the place and moment following London Village events. One was walking across Regents Park around 7am on a weekend morning following a champagne evening and warm night with Cindy. The other was enjoying Sunday afternoon tea in an agreeable room at a house in London W8.

While writing the blogs which related those moments, a thread of thought began to recall other such times. I’ve come to the view they are quite rare, which is distressing in a way. Or maybe it is just that I was not sharp enough or my lifestyle was too noisy to notice them. All the same I did recall one which I will share. Others readers of this blog might like to share an ambiance moment in the comments.


New Years Eve. 1978 or 79. London Village parties galore to choose from. I was not in a relationship at the end of the year, so the party played out like the one in the enjoyable romantic comedy film, About Time. The location of the party was in a row of terraced houses in London SW1. I cannot locate them on a map, and suspect they may have been demolished to make way for high priced office space and retail outlets. What I recall for certain was the view from the back window. The view overlooked the spaghetti like array of tracks as they emerged from the platforms of Victoria station. The window was open. The night was naturally cold and London was exceptionally peaceful. It was getting close to the bewitching hour. Party people were shouting a countdown. I stayed where I was, absorbed by the view of the huge city standing seemingly perfectly still. Everyone screamed at once. Happy New Year!

Just then, precisely then, a train emerged from the train shed of Victoria. Slowly it crossed points to get to the proper track. As the train came fully into view I could see the guard leaning out of his window. No hesitation. I waved energetically.

“Happy New Year,” I yelled down.

He looked up and waved back, good and well.

An instant of rich ambiance I remember with warm feelings many decades on. But why so? The place – the station is permanent as long as London SW1 exists and it’s alive. The moment – could not be more particular. Action – rather an interaction of two people which brought some measure of gratification to each, not matter how fleeting. Small gestures of goodwill can have a huge and lasting impact, is the lesson I think.

Keith Howard
Comments are welcome below.

If you were in the LV circle in the 1970’s, I would love to hear your memories and post them for others to enjoy.