Sandhu, we suspect, gets less sleep than a hummingbird in a centrifuge. Over the past couple of years, the author and film critic has eschewed shuteye to learn more about the capital's nocturnal inhabitants. His new book, Night Haunts, presents eleven accounts from an unfamiliar London.
There are those in trouble - the immigrant cleaners and minicab drivers subsisting on minimal wages with few rights and little respect. Those who help the troubled - such as the Samaritans, the sleep analysts and the nuns of Tyburn. And then there are the trouble makers - the graffiti writers, urban foxes and even a demon by the name of Thentus. Above us, the avian police patrol the night skies in their high-tech choppers; while below, the flushers or 'water technicians' wade through the fat and shit of the London sewers.
The 140 pages of strangeness in the night put a new face on London. One that Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron found uncomfortable at the book's launch on Friday, when she quoted a Samaritan:
Sometimes, after a really heavy night, when you've just heard tragedy after tragedy, people at the end of their tether and wanting to kill themselves, people struggling because they're so poor, you go out and you see a red bus go by with one of those Mayor of London posters: 'Seven million Londoners, One London'. And you think: "Really?"
It's rare for a book about London to say anything new. Night Haunts delivers, like the milkman once did.
Night Haunts is published by Verso, in association with Artangel. It's a must-read, but not a must-buy, as many of the chapters are freely available on the website, which also offers an audio-visual accompaniment.