So, what do you do when the weather is so hot, lions are licking bloody ice cubes and the roads are melting under our feet?

I’ve spent two days trying to find the answer to my prayers. That is, how the hell do you cool down during a London heat wave?  

Firstly – yes, I know 37 degrees isn’t as hot as it gets in Perth. But trust me on this one, it’s about as uncomfortable as I’ve ever felt. This country isn’t made for hot weather – you know things are going wrong when hundreds of people (yes, hundreds – I asked a jolly old ticket inspector) are fainting on the public transport. They should change the Tube warnings from ‘Mind the Gap’ to ‘Mind your head as you faint – because chances are, you will’. 

And god bless the world for making it a bad day to start with… Why is it only on the hottest nights your sheets grow tentacles and manage to wrap themselves around your every limb binding them uncomfortably to you, resulting in a awkward wrestling match to set yourself free?  

After deciding that I couldn’t spend the entire day floating in my bathtub while the water grows more tepid around me, there was only one thing for it… Bill Viola’s new exhibition. Great works in a new gallery (which means they have air-conditioning – Hooray!) and more than a number of them go for about 50 minutes – so they can’t kick me out. Righto – I’m there! 

The work was astoundingly beautiful. A cleansing ritual, which takes more almost an hour to cycle through, is one of the most heart-stopping images I’ve ever seen. The slowness with which it all unfoldeded was so aching – it constantly felt like the images were about to change rhythm, but they never did, leaving you almost falling off the seat in anticipation.

 The cold air wrapped around me, the (typically) hard art-gallery-bench set up in front of the plasma screens as they threw out colourful beauty in every direction, the tap-tapping of shoes on the wooden floorboards. Oh, to have as much talent as that man has in his little finger… 

I think it was called Love/Death: The Tristan Project… but I’m not sure. And in a lovely twist of fate, it has a ‘sequel’ show (I’m sure the artist would shoot me for using that word, but that’s how it feels) exhibiting at the same time – so over the weekend I can go and take refuge from the heat in another gallery for a few hours. 

Sadly in the middle of my meditative peace and quiet, an emergency at work meant I had to go in – and onto the dreaded tube. I have some advice folks; if you’re travelling on the tube during a heat wave, please don’t put your armpit in my face, and please don’t take your shoes off if you even vaguely suspect you might have foot odour (and for gods sake, once you’ve smelt it, don’t assume no one else can – we can smell it, we’re just too polite to say anything). Please don’t stand within millimetres of me, pushing me against the closed doors, whilst you in fact have about half metre clearance in front of you to stand. Please share water with someone who says (and this is a true story)  “I think I’m going to faint, does anyone have water?” instead of turning around and clutching your water bottle to you like it’s the last drop in existence. Please let said person be carried off the train (by nicer people than you) when she does faint, instead of standing in the way, trying to angle yourself onto the seat just vacated by her rescuer (Okay – I’m going leave that horrible man alone now – I’m sure Karma will bite him on the arse one day). 

So back in my glasshouse cage (my office faces the sun, with windows that stretch the entire wall, is the size of the shoebox, with no air conditioner. Aye Carumba). After a few hours of clothes sticking to me as I wade through programming logistics, I’m finally going home. I think “I’m smart – I’m going to take the bus this time!” Better? No, worse. The upstairs windows don’t open (maybe they’re afraid people will jump out?) and with windows surrounding you, and sun coming in from all angles, and people crushing against each other, it was a most sauna-like 45 minutes… 

Enough was enough. I got off a few stops early, figuring I would rather cope with the walk home, than the smell of sweaty people that was taking over the bus. So I walked through the park – where I had my second peaceful moment of the day. The shade of the trees, the breeze of the afternoon, it was all going to be okay.

On a side note, it always amazes me that the London urban sprawl is so ugly, the concrete prison-like estates that tower like guards over our neighbourhoods, the cement courtyards are so stifling – who could possibly have thought people could grow and flourish in such a urban-scape? But then the parks, which are beautifully designed, are like the saving grace. And in the early evening you can see picnickers, couples strolling, illicit barbecues, joggers –  it’s packed with people living life as though they weren’t trapped in a concrete jungle. 

As I walked through the park a little Pakistani boy, in loose cotton clothing so over-sized he looked like he would trip with each step, accidentally kicked the ball to me, instead of his brother. After he’d taunted me by yelling through giggles “kick the ball, missus” (‘missus’? who’s the ‘missus’? How old do I look?) I kicked the soccer ball back to him, where he and his brother almost doubled over with laughter (I didn’t think my kicking style was so bad) and he quickly returned it to me. I kicked it back, and by now he and his brother where in hysterics, falling on the ground, barely breathing. I’m not sure why – it could’ve have been the sight of a woman in office-y clothes joining their fun, or the concentration on my face when I tried to kick the ball. Funnily enough it made me feel something, but I can’t find the word for it…. Popular… Approved of… Rewarded… Something… 

Eventually after a few kicks back and forth (and a couple of nice moves on my part, I must say!) their mother came over and must have said something because they picked up the ball and waved to me and walked off with her.  

And I didn’t feel hot anymore. I felt happy and content. 

So London, show me what you’ve got! Throw me the biggest curve ball you can find. I bet you I can still find a pocket of magic in this place no mater how ugly it gets!

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