The sun in England is a precious commodity, the people wait in anticipation for its sporadic appearances and bask in it when it arrives.
Its the first weekend of summer, the weather is perfect and there is a festival atmosphere at Clapham Common.
You could have blinked and missed the change to summer. In March gloves were a requirement for a newly-arrived Australian, the cold wind was ever present and it blasted your lips until they were dry and cracked. Today the grass is green, there are leaves on the trees and the blue of the sky is not hampered by a single cloud. England will give you an appreciation for the sun and its is quickly met by bare skin and soon, sunburn.
It’s a gentle sun though, it is just that the people here don’t see see it much, which explains their capacity to burn. On Monday morning I see a hideously burnt woman self consciously walking to work and I try not to stare.
I’m here to meet a woman and I’m sitting on a log behind the Clapham Common tube station. There are hundreds of people about and a drunk man with busted shorts asks me if he can use my phone to call the friends he has lost.
He looks harmless, but before I hand over the phone a judgement call has to be made: If he runs, will I be able to catch and overpower him? I decide I can and hand it over and he’s grateful. His friends don’t answer after four tries and I tell him that if they return the call I will let his friends know to meet him where they were last sitting. He calls back later and says he found his friends.
I’ve never met this girl before, but I recognise her walking towards the common. She’s in a sheer blue floral summer dress. Tall, slender and pretty. Her blonde hair is combed off her forehead and swept to each side of her face. She looks strikingly similar to a woman I used to know and who I have fond memories of and it makes me smile.
We greet awkwardly with a hug, but I went in for the peck on the cheek and she wasn’t expecting it. She’s Irish and I am Australian and neither of us knew that about the other before we met. We walk, its hot and she says she’s thirsty.
“I had a big night on Friday and I don’t think I want to drink alcohol,” I say.
“Let’s get a soft drink from the van over there.”
The elderly man selling the drinks can’t speak English. My girl wants a citrus flavoured soft drink, but there are none and she makes him rummage through the esky to find the coldest drink.
“I don’t think he liked me.”
“Doesn’t matter, he should have had a cold drink.”
“The sign does say ‘cold drinks’.”
We sit beneath a tree in the shade and talk for two hours. My first day without booze was easy.