3. Walking in London

In which I walk from East Dulwich to Brixton on the hottest day (so far) in London.

Weather-wise, it has been a summer to forget. By trading one water-logged city for another I realize I’ve resigned myself to countless more earnest conversations about the weather, and where this summer stands versus all previous summers (“the worst”), and what we all are for putting up with these 13-degree, permanently moist if not actively raining days (“crazy”).

Of course, now that the Olympics are almost here, the officially sanctioned perfect days of cloudless skies have arrived, turning London into a swamp of sweaty, sun-addled lobsters. Which is the perfect time to forgo public transit and walk from my home in East Dulwich to the market in Brixton.

I read recently that not knowing where you are in a city simply requires ignorance, whereas getting lost demands a real sense of purpose. It’s not hard to get lost around the south of London, with its streets eschewing any sense of a grid or pattern, and its rows of houses dead-ending without warning, making it the perfect place to have a wander. 


I’m fading hard, which is embarrassing and shameful. In my defence it really is ridiculously hot after weeks and weeks of cool and drizzle. I’m going through my water like the crazy guy on a life raft; I’d be drinking sea water if I was on the ocean. 


No, seriously, this is terrible. This is why people don’t walk anywhere. No public water fountains. No public shade. I’m standing on a street corner melting into my shoes and there is no one about anywhere. The most beautiful day of the year in London and not a single person is out (or they’re all at the lido, or beach, or eating delicious ice cream in some sensibly shaded area). 


I’m not lost, since I’m following the 37 bus route precisely, but I’m hot enough to think I  might be lost, and yes that makes no sense but that’s how amazingly hot I am. Did I mention I’m carrying a DSLR? I’m carrying a DSLR.


No more water. Send dogs with balms of nectar.


Vancouver prides itself on being an exceptionally green city, which is a little like Venice being proud of being underwater. Sure, Vancouver is green, but it’s Vancouver, not Phoenix. Maintaining a park in Vancouver is about as labour intensive as watering fish in a lake. In London, every park is being used, and there is an amazing number of parks, most small and comically statued, but many large, the size of neighbourhoods, and filled with families, musicians, and that shirtless guy doing one push-up every five minutes. 


I take shelter in a park and lean against a tree. I whisper to it that it’s a very good tree, in the hope it will share some of its moisture. It does not. Nature is selfish and cruel.


Brixton. Mother-loving, ice-cold drink-vending Brixton. There are people everywhere, and all these people are drinking beer. Parched with thirst and on the verge of singing show tunes in a fountain, I realize now why the great explorers of the past tried to walk across Australia.

Because they were stupid.