Our new column lets Londoners tell it like it is. This week, Eddy Frankel has a damascene moment and realises that summer isn't over.
The pestle of London’s gloom has pounded me in its mortar of misery, and I’ve had enough. I don’t experience joy any more. I think I used to: it’s hard to be certain. I remember feeling something, at some point, but I don’t know if it was joy. It could have been hunger. Or fear. And it’s all London’s fault. I’ve soaked up all of this city’s despair, and now my inner self is saturated with low-level grumpiness. Picture me as a sad human sponge. Like Spongebob Squarepants in a Slipknot T-shirt. Did you know that in France SpongeBob SquarePants is called 'Bob l'éponge'? Yeah: 'Bob the Sponge'. Not even that makes me happy, and it’s hilarious.
Like most of you reading this, I know that London is incredible, but for the vast majority of the time I can’t see the wood for the trees. I can’t see the sun for the drizzle, the grass for the sprawling hipsters, or the staggering beer for the staggering prices. I’m just another sullen Londoner, trudging through the city, letting it do untold horrible things to my sense of wellbeing.
But I’m a fucking idiot. Last week, in the lovely early evening sunshine of a London summer, I saw joy in this city. I saw it: so close that I know it’s real.
Cycling home, I watched a group of four tourists trying to navigate a busy junction. At this gigantic crossing of roads, heaving with traffic that had momentarily come to a standstill, their heads darted back and forth trying to figure out if it was safe to cross. Together, they took a tentative collective step out into the road, but before they could take a second one, the lights changed and traffic roared towards them. Three of them snapped back on to the pavement, but the fourth made a break for it and dashed to the other side, alone like a sickly gazelle hounded by a pack of mechanical hyenas. The traffic had split them up, and they thought it was absolutely fucking AMAZING.
They’d never seen anything funnier. They were pissing themselves, waving ecstatically across the road at each other, convulsed with excitement. It was as if they were going: 'BRENDA!!! WHAT ARE YOU LIKE!!! YOU'RE ON THE OTHER SIDE!!! BUT WE'RE STILL ON THIS SIDE!!! THIS IS HILARIOUS!!! LONDON IS INCREDIBLE!!! THIS WOULDN'T HAPPEN IN DIGBETH!!!' The traffic re-calmed itself and the main group rejoined the sickly gazelle one. They weren’t embarrassed; they were just awestruck by London in all its massive brilliance.
They had stared into the headlights of the big city, but instead of being blinded and cowed like the rest of us, they had basked in their radiance. I felt like a tool. I’ve spent the whole summer feeling sorry for myself, refusing to enjoy the endless evenings, the carnival atmosphere or the warm breeze as I cycled around. London is never better than when the sun’s out, but I’ve pissed most of it away. So enough is enough, I’m going to throw myself into the last precious weeks of summer, because it’ll be winter soon and then I’ll be really grumpy. I’ve seen the light: I’m going to go and play in the traffic: you should too. It might cheer us all up.
Or if you don't fancy playing in traffic, try one of these 36 fun things to do in London this week.
For more ranting and raving, read Kate Lloyd's column on why London is like a rainy festival.