Tuesday, July 24

Just a walk

BEFORE I HAD even arrived into that cursed city that is filled with people, she was texting me, stating, quite accurately, that today was a day for walking with an ice cream in hand. The sun was bright in the sky. Every Englishman and Englishwoman was welcoming it with open arms, bare shoulders, or no jacket. She told me – ‘I want a good walk today, a long one.’ ‘I’ll think of something,’ I told her, and set about planning a route.
When we went out I led the way. I was very quick; she had to be careful not to be hit by cars. Cars don’t scare me; it is the bikes that will get you. The sun beat down on us and made our skin perspire and this was a source of amusement for us. I took her down to Monument, showed her where the Great Fire started and then we crossed the river. Everything was in a haze. Wind blustered but it was warm and only made my rolled sleeves twitch. The Belfast was where she always was; Tower Bridge was decorated for the Olympics; people snapped and snapped and snapped and smiled and strangers ruined photos and indistinguishable accents laughed and suggested they take it again. It was a great day to be in one of the world’s most famous capital cities.
She followed me down a little alley. It smelled – ‘Sometimes I like to stand here and take a piss.’
‘Pop a chewing gum in your mouth and take a piss.’
‘Yes.’
There were some people handing out Swiss chocolate, as free confectionary is distributed all over the place for the games. We both appreciated the gift and she declared – ‘This is the best walk ever.’ The sun had not melted the chocolate. It tasted good in my mouth and stuck to my teeth.
On other days I would be more inclined to stroll; take my time; admire the sights and the smells, the bustling, the action; but today I was on a mission. After all, there was ice cream to be had; but we weren’t going to be mugged over it, as vendors upped their prices for the visitors.
A man was playing the accordion to the tune of ‘Guantanamera’ with those crooked hands that accordionists have, fixed in a cragged pose and heaving out the notes. He smiled as he sat there on his stool underneath a bridge so that the walls made him sound bigger. We hurried along, talking – ‘I saw some kids throwing rocks at that window once.’
‘Rocks?’
‘Yeah. I dunno why.’
All the ice cream was too expensive. It was very hot. Sweat tickled the bottom of my back. Joggers rushed past.
Outside the Tate were the biggest crowds, and the Globe Theatre, too, although it was lunch and many were sitting down to eat or sitting down to digest their food. She stopped to take a photograph, in the shade of a bridge, of the Thames as it swirled and waved and the boats along it tossed up white in a remarkable salute to the sunshining day.
‘You know, if we really rushed down here we could have taken a quick run around the Tate,’ I suggested. She wasn’t interested in art galleries. I was not sure if that endeared me to her more or less, whether it put me off; my feelings never quite achieved an apex over her.
We crossed the Millennium Bridge. A Japanese lady dropped a piece of paper, a trifle, feint blue lined, folded in half making it small indeed. My foot was fast so I stopped it from blowing into the water. Her family smiled and laughed and thanked me. Kids out on summer holiday skateboarded the steps with all the grown-ups watching them and they often fell over and got back up. They just kept standing back up. Their falls were loud, reverberating off the buildings. The steps of the cathedral were full of people, too; everywhere people. Pigeons flew among them for scraps of food causing the diners to flinch. They can’t all be Christians but maybe they thought the sun was strongest there.
We found ice cream at a reasonable price and were glad. It tasted as good as we’d hoped. Noisily licking them we went down some quieter streets lined with Georgian behemoths.
We were out of the office for a full hour, just enough reprieve.
The sun stuck with us.
We were tired and wet. I turned on my fan and dried off. The sun still shone very strongly on the buildings outside of the window.
A rep called me up – ‘I just saw you down St Paul’s. You’s with some tasty blonde bird … she your missus?’
‘Nah.’
The rest of the day was not so bad.

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