London Short Fiction: Routine

By Londonist Last edited 109 months ago
London Short Fiction: Routine


Continuing our series of short fiction set in, or influenced by London. This week’s story is by Clare Kane.

There is beauty in routine. I don't mean there is beauty in work, in clocking in your eight hours every day. There is beauty there sometimes, even in the most harshly-lit of office cubicles, but the beauty in personal routine has a different quality. Routine is the moments we think we are not living — brushing our teeth, loading the washing machine, feeling the hardness of plums at the supermarket — but it is in those careless minutes that we are most alive.

I had routines before I met you. Not stepping on the cracks on the way to the bus stop. A chocolate bar from my father every Saturday morning. Turning my pillow over in the night to feel the fresh side against my cheek. But then we came together and made our own routines and I stopped caring about cracks and chocolate and cheeks.
I cook, you wash up. You cook, I wash up. Going to Marine Ices and ordering two servings of pistachio on the first day of summer. Shopping at Borough market on Saturdays. Watching documentaries on Tuesday nights. You jogging while I clean the windows. Fitful sleep after too many beers on Friday night. Making the bed, you holding one side of the duvet and me the other. Not making the bed at all on weekends. Most of all, that blissful hour after you get up for work and I take one of your pillows, feeling the familiar trace of you against my face while I steal more sleep.

I thought life was the moments between routine. I thought it was spice, variety, excitement, all the big, swooping moments they show you in adverts and movies. Life was new jobs and apartments with skyscraper views and designer shoes. Life was men who told you they had never seen eyes like yours before. You saw my eyes every day, until the colour dimmed and the intensity faded and they were just part of the wallpaper of your life, and looking into them in the morning was just another routine before the usual kiss goodbye. So it was me. I did it. I plunged the knife through our routine, I shredded our rituals. I said goodbye to alternate cooking days and Italian ice cream and sleeping next to a shape so familiar it had left a groove in the bed. Things had gotten routine, I told you, and I needed excitement. I was too young and dewy to be sacrificed to the middle-aged altar of routine.

And now, here I am, every morning setting my alarm clock an hour early to press a fresh pillow against me, though it doesn't smell of you. I have the shoes and the apartment and men who tell me lies about my eyes but I don't have anyone to share the washing-up with. I have made new routines – turning on the espresso machine as soon as I wake up, doing Pilates on Wednesdays, meeting my friends for cocktails in Shoreditch on Fridays — but without a mirror they are empty. Routines are life — they have to be shared.

Copyright, Clare Kane, image by Geoff Holland in the Londonist Flickr pool.

We’re still after your stories, which you should send to [email protected]. Entries must be no more than 1,000 words, and must be set in London, or strongly inspired by the city. Full details here.

Previously in this series

For children/by children

General London fiction

  • Mark: A struggling actor becomes a hero of the people.
  • The Guardian of Travellers: Victoria Coach Station passengers take the advice of a sage.
  • Graphic Novels: A celebrated novelist finds inspiration in Shoreditch Library.

London at Night

Christmas in London


London razed

Transport tales


  • Two Four Eight: Lance V Ramsay envisions an Orwellian dystopia in the lingo of future London.
  • Old Nichol: Jill Fricker evokes the woes of the old East End.
  • Clissar: Grazia Brunello dips into the future of north London, through a glass darkly.



  • The Perfect Gift: A Christmas fairy tale in which London’s statues come to life, by Katherine Wheston.
  • The City Inside: Tom Butler has some curious metropolitan anatomy.


  • Jazz Code and the Tube: The ambivalence of dating, by Jenny Mackenzie.
  • A Free Man: Melanie White’s flash fiction piece considers a recently single guy at a bachelor party.
  • Clean Living London: Ursula Dewey rolls her sleeves up for some housework.
  • Swipe Right: Does Tinder have the answers? By Heidi Scherz
  • The Writer and the Dancer: Close encounter at a flat party by Vincent Wood.
  • St Peter’s Gate, Knightsbridge: A nocturnal romance at closing time, by Theo Klay
  • First: A romance begins inside a London gay club. By Lance Middleton.
  • Natural Disasters: Can you find love at the supermarket checkout, when your customer’s buying porn? Yoel Noorali enquires.
  • NO! SUSHI: A relationship breaks down during a Japanese leaving party, by Clare Kane.

Other tales

Last Updated 29 March 2015