I have spent many summers in London. I grew up in the capital after all. For all that, though, I have never spent lengthy periods of time here during the warm months – there was always the delicious prospect of somewhere away, whether friends in the country or visits to the sea. This year, for the first time, I am obliged to be present. I am expected at a desk in the heart of the city every morning, there is work to do, and there are friends too – friends and family, people to see. Still, at first, I loathed it. Too hot, too dirty, concrete jungle, the tube feels like a sauna, the city like a desert. Heat writhes across the pavements, respite is unforthcoming, and why must I sit indoors all day?
In the last few weeks, however, a plot twist. I think I may be falling for summer, summer here in London. Perhaps I just needed to get into the swing of things. I am surrounded by love and the sun shines. There are bare legs, freckled cheeks, sunstreaked hair, the prospect of lunch hours lazing in the park, watermelons split with friends after work, open air theatres, yoga in a cool dark library as our teacher chants and the heat falls away.
When the weather obliges, I cycle the perimeter of a royal park to reach my desk – rosy-cheeked but happy. At dusk, the sunsets linger. So do I. Bathed in amber light, the city is truly at its best. Walking through Regent’s Park, I can skip through tall grass and pretend I am in the countryside. The houses recall the seaside, painted as they are in the colours of ice-cream – pink sherbet, lemon yellow, blueberry, mint green. Marigolds planted in brightly-coloured ceramic pots line window sills and ribbons of lavender climb with zeal into the sky. As I pedal across the boardwalk, straw bag swinging from the handlebars and my hair tangling in the summer-scented breeze, I inhale. The air smells like suncream. Children toss frisbees across the meadow. Office workers picnic on the grass.
This London – this London of amber light and a summer breeze: this London I love.