I don’t know whether its true to say that the sun rarely hits London, despite the greyness of London, the weather Britannique, is really four seasons in one day, the crouds are recrudescent, the sun always seems to break through once a day, often fleetingly, but its always there, memories of sunny versions of one’s neighbourhood or home are always fresh, reasonably fresh. However it is true to say that the sun rarely hits London in prolonged and interrupted spells, but when it does, it can produce warm weather, any time between February, when spring is in its first throes and November, the last stop for any Indian Summer and after which the presence of the sun cannot stop the cooling effect of being that much more removed from the sun.
Spring time aromas
In April time, early May, Spring comes along, and all of a suddent, a sweet aroma, winding its way in the air, pervasive, nature’s perfect perfume, can be traced everywhere and anywhere, especially on late night walks home along the avenue’s of parks, that sweet smell creeps into your nostrils, tickling, tantalizing, soothing, making you so happy you are in London, the cool evening cooling, temperature, feel, as the evening’s cool soothes your sun beaten face, your weary body, traveling throughout London, beers, friends, chats, over eating, taking it easy, walking, stumbling home, mildly sunbeaten face buzzing with radiation and pride, and the cool evening, makes you feel, oh yeh, you look all around you, and you think its good to be alive, everyone must be feeling that tonight, this urban jungle, and its plants, and its scent, as the evening cools you, the scent puts you on to a high, puts you on to a different planet, makes you happy, makes you think this is what its all about, makes you wish you were nowhere else but London, fuck me, this is the best, makes you want to hug every last person, oh yeh, London baby, this is where its at, this is where its happening, and that smell, the smell of the plants, the flowers, the trees, that hangs in the atmosphere like silk, mingling with the pollution the noise, that makes you think, yeh, I’ve done it, I’m here, I’m in London baby! Its an extra reason for living, when you find yourself walking home alone, depressed by the excesses of alcohol, encumbered by inefficient limbs, wobbling from place to place, loosing cool and composure, thinking about others you aren’t with, you have at least London, your only friend, lending you its beautiful scent, intoxifying you with her grace, and all of a sudden you feel someone is there, your friend, London, just there, oh yeh, and you go home, and you think fuck you and fuck it to everything and everyone around you, apart from that smell, and you think, well things can only get better, I never have nothing, because I’ve always got London. You know there are probably rapists in the park, and weirdoes of all varieties late at night, and you sensibly decide not to venture in, but walking by the side of the park, you breathe in those scents, those beautiful tempting scents. And you take a deep breath in, the deepest breath, and you breath it all in, and breathing out, you feel like you’ve had a massage, you feel relaxed, London a lovely place, a truly lovely place.
The British sun is a sadistic sun, or perhaps its those clouds that are to blame, giving rise to occasions when, with the first sense of warm air and sunshine, you go out for a hastily arranged barbecue, yes the first sight of the sun presages the first waff of barbecue, the first wave of afternoon weekend socializing, to stuff your belly with charcoal, sausages and burgers burned on the outside and roar on the inside, tasteless white bread, to be pissed by five in the evening. It signals the end to stuffy dinner parties, discotheques, or so you’d like to think. However no sooner are you gathered around sizzling sausages with a can of Carling in your hand than the clouds move in, a bit of rain to ruffle you up. But you are so desperate for a bit of sun, that you all stay out, maybe you will even put a coat on as a child wind begins to blow, and you find yourself freezine and battling against the cold and needing a piss, and you sit there enjoying yourselves huddled around the barbecue, until it gets dark, by which time you are glad to go home, and you do so, sniffling, the morning after which you wake up feeling like shit.
Dappled sunlight, filtered by the foliage lining Queens Avenue, shines through the dusty windows on the top deck of a bus, as it makes it way from Muswell Hill towards East Finchley. There is a tangible change in peoples behaviour, shoulders, rather than being hunched are lowered and relaxed, arms are stretched out along the back of seats, like cats extended in front of a warm hearth. Happier, for the soothing caresses of the sun, having more comfortable emotions, people express themselves and share their feelings, there is more noise on the bus. Organised pagan religion may have died a death in the seventh century but reverence for the sun is still very strong.
London’s rapid response to the sun
The people of London respond to the sun in real time, with alacrity. After a few hours of uninterrupted sunshine on a warm day people flood out onto their terraces, into the parks. Women will quickly show folds of flesh and wear figger-hugging dresses. Men, geezers, take their tops off, revealing sculptured torsos, broad shoulders, wafer thin wastes, from which jeans hang, slightly lower than their elasticated boxer shorts. London’s great diversity means that you can find almost every body form, from the ordinary to the most exotic. London’s parks are full of every body type possible.
The presence of the sun marks the beginning of the mating season, not the sex season, for that evidently runs all year round, but the mating season, where exposure to exposure hypersensitizes us to the sexual potential in the other, awakens hitherto desires dormant, makes us horny. In 2008, one man, a genuine Cockney, working as a security man, walking down Camden High Road, out of the corner of his eye, spots a woman, of exquisite shape, who excites him so he decides to change his plans, and from a discreet distance, follows her on to a bus, from where several seats away, he quietly observes. In the dusty heat of London, with sexual desire heightened, most Londoners do not loose their cool, they maintain a miaou like nonchalance, those Londoners wear caps with shirts slung over their thin toros, walk casually, serious expressions, walks of purpose and belonging, purpose and familiarity, purpose and routine. Londoners look like they couldn’t really care who they are walking past, whilst their minds race to record everyone and everything that comes into view, its reproductive fitness. Imagination plays a huge part, it inspires a huge amount of sexual ambition and optimism, barely contained by Londoners’ habit of coating every last desire in a veneer of nonchalance.
People flood on to the terraces of café bars and restaurants, eating al fresco doubling if not tripling the custom and turnover of these local busineses, causing restauranteurs with such facilities to praise God, the sun, the jet stream or whatever dynamic prime moving force they believe behind the changes, and their staff to work three times as hard and fast, furrowed brows, at least they’re not counting the seconds unti home time, sweat and an usual level of anxiety, challenging the cool and nonchalance that waiters usually exhibit, that they learn to hone over the years, i.e. in contrast to their usual placid and somposed chacharm.
An even more impressive response to the sun is produced by the many trees, bushes and grasses, which find their expression in parks, marshes and in the nooks and crannies of the city. Tottenham marshes, a beautiful wilderness in what is otherwise a rather grimey and reasonably dangerous part of London, is one good example. The marshes, no longer marshes, but a series of grasslands and small woods, which border the Lee Valley River, which flows slowly, so slowly, as to be a canal all the way down to Limehouse Basin. During the winter, autumn, and for much of the spring, so long as spring is overcast, the growth of the grasses, bushes and trees is imperceptible. The grasses never, it seems grow very much about the height of one’s knees. However, with just one or two days of pure unadulterated sunshue, the grasses experience an explosion in growth and can double or triple their size. The result is a verdant cornucopia, a jungle, wandering into which is like wandering into Land of Hope and Glory at The Last Night of the Proms in The Royal Albert Hall.
A two week holiday to the place we dream about all year long
After a few days of summer hotness, the streets of London are transformed, and everyone in the city is transported to this place, a place that they know, that they only get to see two weeks at most a year, almost as if one is going on holiday. Peoples’ walks have less business about them and more sexiness, swing and jaunt. When the sun starts shining in London it’s a different city, things start to change. Londoners are quick to adapt, clothes are dropped, people’s walk has less of a business about it, and more sexiness, there’s more of a swing in people’s walk, a bobbing up and down, as people go through the street, it’s a humility based in a deep appreciation for the sun’s rays, a reverence, but also, a sense of excitement, it is, is not, after all, mating season, I don’t mean having sex season, because that’s evidently all year round, I mean mating, finding a mate. Life suddenly explodes on the street, London street life and London park life comes into blossom.
On the buses, you notice there’s less anger, and more happiness, peoples’ conversation is more jaunty, airey, as the dappled sunlight filetered through London’s ubiquitous trees, warms up one and all. OH yeh, people stretch like cats, out and talk into their phone stretching their bodies, shouting out, and giving off a slight sense of discomfort with the heat in the tone of their voices. You just feel happy, supported, like everyone and everything is a lot safer, you can understand that before the invention of organized religion, why pagan’s reverence for the sun was so strong. We still revere and appreciate the sun, and all it provides and gives to us, the way it empowers us, we just think it a bit ridiculous worshipping it, and perhaps some of us feel guilty too.
The first waff of the barbecue in the London air, the opportunity to socialized, meet people in a different way, a different forum, no more stuffy dinner parties, no more late night parties, but getting pissed in the day, stuffing your belly with charcoal, meat and bread, getting drunk on lagers, and meeting, joking, and taking it easy, and falling back in your chair, and falling asleep, oh its so great.
East London is a magical place in the summer; with Londoners keen to make the most of the sun’s fleeting appearances, the summer is the best time to see the full spectrum of East London’s colours. And no better place to see the full rainbow than at one of London’s community festivals, the jewels in the crown of London living, fantastic to experience, but rarely celebrated in art and literature. Ray Walker’s Dalston Lane Mural captures something of the essence of East London’s festivals, and in particular, the 1983 Hackney Peace Carnival.
There is nothing like Hackney in the summer time. The lethargic strides of scruffy fashionistas, with commodofied bicycles, low down trousers, turn-ups, checkered woodmen’s shirts, and women dressed up in big glasses, retro clothes, walking their way through the streets, talking as calmly and yet as wittily as possible, quickly, showing their wit, their intelligence their intelligentsia credibilitia, The beautiful warm yellows of a summer’s Sunday, people walking around with no great plans, no great schemes, just happy to be in each others’ company, idling from one place to another, singletons, all happy to find company in a singletons heaven, odd balls, all mixing it up together, talking, chatting, all with a vague sense of relief that they’ve found someone for today, all with a vague concern of the social uncertitudes of tomorrow.
Muslim women sweat it out
Meanwhile Muslim women in Shadwell, remain true to their own particular interpretation of Islamic dictat, daubed in black robes and linens, maintaining their cool on the Docklands Light Railway, inspiring incredulity, admiration and disbelief, from those struggling in the heat in their t-shirts and shorts.