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They were mowing the grass in the little strip of ‘park’ behind my office last week. I could tell because when I threw open the window – insofar as you can ‘throw’ a small square of reinforced prison glass that barely pivots on a rusted central joint – I caught the unmistakeable scent of London grass being cut. Which is, of course, the smell of a winter’s worth of dogshit being muckspread by a council lawnmower. No wonder the guy wears a hazmat suit.
But still, spring is spring, and it is a joy to see its brightly coloured petals poking up through the foetid corpse of winter. Or is it? Before you go getting too excited about the end of winter. Do you remember how godawful summer is?
Do you remember how it suddenly gets warm and you think you had better dress appropriately but all you can find from last year is some swimming trunks, a vest with a big yeasty stain down the front, a straw hat and two right-foot flip-flops? So you put them on and go into town but then the moment you step into the shade it feels about six below, your nipples harden like the rivets on a pair of Levi’s, goosebumps spread across your exposed limbs and you realise everyone else is in jumpers and puffas?
And then when it does get warm do you remember how you think it might be nice to eat outside somewhere, but that you can’t? Because London doesn’t really do that. Except where there are tables on sooty pavements full of Charles Saatchi arguing with women, which you can’t book because ‘outside tables are first come, first served’, except never to you for some reason, possibly because they are holding the last one back in case Charles Saatchi happens by and wants to argue with a woman at it.
So you think you’ll go and lie in the park but there isn’t a space where you can stretch out anywhere. And it looks like some sort of phone farm, with all the shirtless worker bees lying there, arms aloft, trying to read their iPhones. So you literally have to lie down on your side, wedged between two fornicating students and a snoring bus driver.
You give up and head home, but the pavements are full of men walking around topless, like nobody does in any city in the world outside England. And they all have tattoos. And so you, not having one, don’t dare take your shirt off in case everyone stares at you. Because not having tattoos is the new nudity, and pink unscribbled skin is too porno for public consumption.
Do you remember all the arseholes who drive around with their windows down, listening to aggressive, sexist music you are supposed to feel intimidated by? And do.
Do you remember how young men hang menacingly on corners with their hands down the front of their trousers – have they got pubic lice or something? – with their hoods still up despite the 100-degree heat? Do you remember how you always forget to book a holiday and are probably the only person left here in August – like something out of a zombie film – apart from the ones who have stayed behind to do some looting?
Do you remember how there’s nothing on the telly apart from tennis? Do you remember how the neighbours have endless parties out in the garden, smoking fags and shouting drunkenly until three in the morning? Do you remember the flies? The smell of the bins? Do you remember feeling like you have to eat salad all the time? Do you remember nobody wearing proper shoes and having to look at rows of stinking, bunioned, misshapen feet on the tube? Do you remember the weird pressure to go out and have fun all the time even when you don’t feel like it?
Well, I do. And I am not looking forward to it. I treasure the privacy, warmth and intimacy of a London winter. And I won’t be kissing it goodbye until I’m good and ready.
Feeling SAD now? Tweet him @gilescoren