This Summer, in London

After returning from my little vacation in New York City, I was looking forward to spending the summer in London. With no other breaks from work planned until the end of August, I wanted to enjoy the city and try to take it easy in all aspects of my life. I dreamed of weekends at the park, enjoying the warmer weather, and reading while sipping some cold cider. Taking my time preparing meals for late dinners, accompanied by a nice old glass of white wine. Preparing some iced coffee with some limited edition capsules from Nespresso. Knowing that after the work day was over, there was basically another day, with the sunlight only disappearing at 10pm. And I saw the perfect description of what I wanted from summer below.

From the book Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson, one of my summer reads

It’s summer now, and you’re craving a simpler existence. You want to read. You want to write. (…) It’s summer now, and you’re looking forwards to worrying less. You’re looking forward to longer nights and shorter day. (…) You’ll be looking forward to laughing so hard your chest hurts and you feel light-headed. You’re looking forward to the safety in pleasure. You’re looking forward to forgetting, albeit briefly, the existential dread that plagues you, which tighthnes your chest, which pains your left side”

Caleb Azumah Nelson

I am not particularly fond of Summer. Hot weather always left me feeling languid, and unproductive. Somehow apathetic. I’ve been keen on British Summer because it typically means warmer days – not too hot, not too cold. Enough to be able to leave the house without a jacket and enjoy some sunshine, but also with refreshing clouds and rain. I can only deal with heat if I am on holiday, by the beach or the swimming pool. Summers in London have typically been bearable – within the 18-22 degrees Celsius, and the occasional high or low. But not this year. This year London hasn’t been having any rain. The thermometers have achieved historically records – we had two consecutive days of what I can only describe as true hell – 38º and 40ºC. A very crude reminder of climate change, despite those who continue to deny it. And don’t take me wrong ‘ I know that in other parts of the planet these temperatures are nothing. However, in London, this is extremely abnormal. We don’t have air conditioners in our homes. Homes in London are built to keep the warmth in, not to take it out.

Chinese Pagoda at the Victoria Park

And of course, after managing to avoid Covid for the past two years, I finally fell victim to it. Precisely in the middle of a heatwave. It was so hot, that it took me some time to realise that I was actually burning with fever, not from the hot weather. To be fair, at that point, I was burning from both.

Yet, I cannot go to the parks for my summer reading either. It’s too hot, and it simply saddens me not to be able to see the greenery that characterises London. The lawns are yellow, dead yellow. Not like the gold we see in Autumn, which manages to look healthy even though we know that Autumn is the season of death. Summer here is supposed to be a celebration of life. But when I go to the parks, I don’t see this. It’s dusty, it’s dry, it’s ugly.

In addition, the summer has been plagued with so much more negative news. Travel is chaotic with airports facing staff shortages, and flight cancellations, with trains in the UK going on constant strike. I can only be glad I did not have travel plans this summer. There is a war going on not too far and just turn on the news to see people worrying about silly political differences, that become a threat to basic human (women) rights.

I’ve been going instead to galleries when it’s not too hot for me to dare to get myself into public transport. It simply feels like you can’t breathe, which makes me panic. At least inside galleries is cool and one can distract oneself from everything that has made this summer less. I loved the exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, called In The Black Fantastic.

I also visited recently a very different but quirky exhibit at a small gallery near where I live, the Camden Arts Centre ‘ Thank You Darling, by Lily van der Stokker.

August just started. This is my second least favourite month, but having in mind how bad July was personally for me, I’m trying to be positive about the coming weeks!

How is your summer going?

Love, Nic


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