Column this week
Sunday: It’s 30 degrees, the hottest day for the year so far. The neighbours have strung lights along their fence, in preparation for an all afternoon, late night barbeque. The sky, unblemished by a single cloud, glistens as though polished. The leaves on the trees, dancing to the music the wind makes by blowing through them, shine as though rubbed down with the same cloth. Inside the house – insulated to contain all possible heat during the long winter – is unbearably hot. Still somewhat pasty and loathing to waste the light by sweltering indoors, I put on a bikini purchased over a year ago and waiting to be worn. Books spread over the backyard and shiny with sunblock, I sit, tan and study.
Monday: Told the night before that Sunday would be followed by a week of rain, I awake to find – joy of joys – sunlight. It will not last, the radio tells us. Tomorrow the rains will be back with chances of flooding once again. But for today, there is sun. I pull on jeans and a t-shirt, and then change my mind. I open my window, put my hand out. Yes, warm enough for a vest and skirt, a chance to top up on Sunday’s tan and feel a bit like it’s summer. Walking down the street I see people in anoraks and cardigans. Am I becoming acclimatized, or is it a case of optimism overtaking reality? Whatever it is it has allowed me to leave my house not wearing much. And I am grateful.
Tuesday: The carriage rocks from the force of the train passing by. We’re just outside London Bridge, waiting for our turn to pull into the station. Two little children sit with their father in front of me, red haired or ginger as they’re called here. Ginger minger. Red haired and covered in freckles, like brown sugar sprinkled over their faces and shoulders. They’re drinking from little boxes of fruit juice, their lips pursed around the brightly coloured straws. Their dad takes out a tube of sunblock and slathers their noses and shoulders. His own face is florid, as are the faces of many of the fairer passengers on the train, in the station when we pull up to the platform. As I make my way down to the tube an announcement is made that in this hot weather, it is advisable that passengers carry a bottle of water to prevent dehydration. I take a sip from my own bottle and admire my dark brown arms.
Wednesday: I sit in class and look outside the window at the building opposite. The windows are hung with huge baskets full of flowers whose name, as I type this sentence, I realise I don’t know. I don’t remember noticing them before; I don’t know how I could not have. The colours are startling against the plain white walls. Puce, purple, fuchsia are exploding brilliantly on my retina. I turn to face the lecturer at the front of the class and realise one of my classmates is wearing a dress the exact fuchsia colour as the flowers. Her colour choice is glorious – she stands out like a flare among the tamer baby blues and whites of the classroom.
Thursday: The miracle continues. Each day the radios tell us will be the last before the rains return and every last day is followed by a brighter, hotter one. I go running in the park and there is a man on a skateboard, flying a kite. The wind billows the sickle shaped toy and the man is towed across the grass. People have put up mini tents and sit at their entrances, reading three for the price of two novels and scratching insect bites. Men walk their dogs along the grassy verges, combining the daily chores of pet attendance, doctor recommended constitutionals and getting fresh air. I realise I can barely breathe and my thighs feel like they’re on fire. Maybe, I tell myself, a nice stroll will be just as effective.
Friday: “You have any plans for later?” I write the note and slide it across to my classmate. “None at all,” slides back to me. Both our eyes follow the lecturer as he walks in front the room; it’s as though our hands have become disembodied. This lecturer is particular – he wants no talking in class, very little participation. He is, we’ve determined, in love with the sound of his own voice. I notice him repeating words, changing their cadence each time. He isn’t as bad as the lecturer I’ve nicknamed Turtle, because it was only after ten minutes of hearing him speak that I realised his lecture wasn’t about the reptiles. He was actually saying total. “Glass of wine after class?” I write back. “But of course!” Outside is still bright at seven, eight. Girls stroll along Oxford Circus in short shorts. Unfortunately, some men too. I get home after the hour long spectacle that dusk in summer sometimes is, the colours of night whitewashing the sky. On days like these, I think as I remove my makeup, it’s easy to imagine living in England forever.