Once upon a time, summering in the city would have meant contending with the perils associated with heat waves and a transport network miserably lacking in air conditioning. There would be the morning commutes pressed up against a stranger’s fragrant armpit; lunchtimes in a sunny park trying to avoid staring at half-naked sun worshippers (man stripped down to tiny black pants, we’re studiously avoiding you…); trying to avoid being blinded by a forest of bright white legs released from tights for the first time in months; and attempting to work out how much of your tan is in fact dirt from lingering exhaust fumes.
The summer of 2012 has proved to be perilous in quite a different way. In June, the city of Newcastle received a month’s rainfall in an hour and July wasn’t much better. August has had its moments of sunshine, sprinkled with downpours. Londoners have been spotted in that most contradictory of ensembles – sunglasses and an umbrella – ready for whatever is meteorologically thrown at them. Getting drowned by a tidal wave of floodwater thanks to a passing bus is more of a danger than heat exhaustion.
Perhaps the unseasonable weather has one advantage, it at least minimises the amount of trauma that can be caused by summer wardrobe choices. Revealing blindingly pale skin is one thing; suffering a significant injury thanks to your summer outfit is quite another. Maxi dresses and skirts are a summer staple for many women (they’re cunning on days when your legs are in need of a bit of hair maintenance), yet in the city, they can be lethal. Think about it – floor length skirts are perfect for tripping on while walking up or down steps (or, if you’re particularly klutzy, simply walking on a flat surface), and just the right length to get trapped in an escalator. Honestly, it’s a real danger! Can you imagine discovering your skirt is caught and having to debate “do I lose my skirt (and my dignity) or risk seeing what happens when I get to the end?” – it happened to a friend, she lost the skirt. Don’t even get me started on the dangers of running for the bus while wearing flip-flops.
But it looks as though the biggest peril we thought the capital would face this summer won’t be quite so perilous. The Olympics were expected to cause chaos – half a million extra people would flood through the capital; roads would close; the tube would be overcrowded. If it was being described in film classification terms, I suspect any activity in London during the Games would have been expected to involve at least ‘mild peril’. Ominous emails have been arriving from Transport for London with cheery subject headings like “Major Impact to Travel” and road closure signs are appearing across the city. But instead of peril, there has been calm. Extra people may have arrived, but many have left. Tubes are devoid of commuters who chose to work from home (or watch the Games). Warnings of travel hotspots have come to nothing. The biggest peril was in fact whether the weather would play ball with the open-air events…
It’s safe to say that no one is likely ever to forget the summer of 2012.