When I went to India in 1979, it was the first time that I had ever got into the habit of seeking out the shady side of the street. Even in the long hot summer of 1976 it had never occurred to me before that sunlight – however hot – was something to be avoided – even if it led to headaches and dehydration. The grey, raining pastel norms of weather in the UK made a bit of suffering for sunlight well worthwhile. Some people paid a fortune to have overseas holidays to get scorched like that, so turning it down when it was blazing away for free seemed somehow churlish and ungrateful. Its different today. I find myself standing in bizarre places to get a bit of shade. In an unforgivingly exposed bus shelter on Kingsbury Road, I have discovered that the bus stop sign is just long and wide enough – when you take the panel with the bus info on it into account – to stand in profile with your head in a cooling dark patch while everything around swelters and shrivels. I see other people doing the same everywhere. People hang back from the bus stop by the Park so they can stand under the trees. In the Park proper, families picnic in the shade under the trees and people have taken to shade bathing.
By the outdoor gym in the Park a small cadre of people are lying prostrate in the sunlight, facing south east, apparently Muslims praying. It seems like an odd venue for it and conjures thoughts of a confessional keep fit group having a break. As I pass however, a tough looking woman with a stop watch and commanding voice tells them how much longer they have to keep planking. A bit of prayer might have left them looking a little less frazzled.
On the pavement beyond Kingsbury Fruit and Veg, a blue shirted evangelical with a microphone but no charisma talks to the passing crowds – none of whom stop or engage in dialogue. The Word hangs in the air like intrusive muzak or ideologically charged noise pollution. This does not seem to bother him and he presses on with the single mindedness of faith; presuming that God approves.
On one of the Historical Tube posters on display up the stairs at Kingsbury station there is one of the Prince of Wales from about 45 years ago looking excited that he is in the front cab of a new train. Somehow, he manages to look like Noddy AND Big Ears.