…to the shady side of the street

I’ve already bitched once before about the weather, but hey, I’m British, and so am allowed to find it a perpetual source of fascination. At least we HAVE weather, rather than a climate. As our American ambassador says, there they have two seasons, summer, and waiting for summer. Compared to this, the vagaries of the British climate are a delight to behold.

Personally, I wear it as some kind of badge of honour that, on the hottest day of the year, I crossed the doorstep for all of 15 minutes, preferring instead to lurk inside in the (relatively) cool shade. This is why I am writing this editorial at nine-something in the morning; normally, it’s not a part of Sunday with which I am usually familiar, but in this case, I decided to try and beat the heat. It’s warm enough as it is, without making things worse by being in a room with several hefty electrical devices.

It’s always struck me as somewhat odd that people slag off Michael Jackson for trying to make his skin lighter, and then spend hours and money attempting to get THEIR skin darker. I’m sure it’s not natural, the skin is just reacting to an unwelcome stimulus from the outside — there’s no difference between a suntan and a bruise, in these terms, but you don’t see people going round hitting themselves with mallets to get that healthy “battered fruit” look. You’re either white or you’re black. Deal with it.

Still, any excuse to avoid the centre of town. If one thing’s worse than a hot summer day, it’s a hot summer day on the tube. There are times when I am really glad that I don’t have to take the underground to work, and this week has been one of them. Concepts of personal space collapse, like matter round a black hole (and due to similar reasons of pressure and temperature), and you find yourself pushed into far-too-close proximity with people whom you’d rather not care to know. Needless to say, all the attractive actresses go around in chauffeur-driven limos rather than on the Tube, so the odds are against your newfound, extremely close, personal friend being a pleasant experience.

Above ground, things are unlikely to be much better. Summer brings two unpleasant plagues: wasps and tourists. Hard to tell which one is more unpleasant; at least wasps don’t clog up the pavements. Careful observation has revealed the general rule of intelligence at work: the combined IQ of any tourist or group thereof remains constant, regardless of the number in the group. Thus: single tourists are fine; two are bearable, but once you get beyond that number, you are dealing with people who appear to have the savvy of an upland sheep. And in some cases, that’s AFTER said animal has been carved into slices and placed on a plate with two veg and mint sauce.

This is largely why I choose to avoid Zone 1 during the summer months, as it become an unpleasant ordeal to fight your way along Oxford Street. But why the hell do tourists bother to GO there — “Oh, look, there’s a McDonald’s”. Don’t they have shops selling overpriced tourist tat at home? This also helps explains why most Londoners have never been to places like Madam Tussaud’s: a) it’s full of tourists, and b) it must therefore been an overpriced rip-off. I’ve BEEN abroad, and I KNOW they don’t charge a quid a can for Coke over there, so why are people apparently happy to pay it here? “Europa Food and Wine” are the past masters of this: a chain of food stores located wherever tourists congregate, specialising in heinous over-charging. I’m sure they’d claim it’s because of the rent in these “popular” areas, but you don’t see Books Etc doubling the prices in their Mayfair branch.

London is actually a fine city to live in…most of the time. But there are definitely occasions when it’s a place more to be endured than enjoyed. And when the temperature kicks up into the 80’s is definitely one of them.

Oh, and next week’s updates may be a little late, as I’m off to Bradford. On the other hand, this may mean they’re actually a bit early…but I wouldn’t count on it!