In winter living in the city is like living in a half-built museum, with entire zones and districts cut off by the cold, the wet and the dark. For six months of every year it feels as if our environment has simply folded in on us, reducing itself to its barest bones and moving away from the light.
Those grand old boulevards and roman roads we used to wander down become little more than means to an end, nothing more than dead spaces between work, home and play.
Terminals and destinations become all-important, everything in between no longer matters, when really it’s the in between that makes our cities what they are.
But as the calendar moves in accordance with the planet, and our cities once again find themselves under the fall of the sun, they start to open up before us, blossoming in fast forward like a time-lapsed rose on a nature documentary.
It’s as if the city awakes from its seasonal slumber and starts to breathe again, stretching its arms and legs and bringing its inhabitants into the warmth.
The streets that we only went down because we had to suddenly become places to linger and languor, the parks that we ran around in spring become places to lie and lounge in summer, whilst the cold air starts to warm and simmer with possibility. So swings this infinite pendulum of modern, urban living.
All this light and heat seems to have an almost primeval effect on city-dwellers, like moon has on the tides or a tornado has on livestock. People start to fall in tune with the weather, and cars, trains, even buildings follow suite. Taxi’s become angry, buildings become sexy and pavements lose their minds.
On a summer’s evening in the city you can almost pull chunks from the chaos and fervor that hangs in the air, yet the atmosphere is not intimidating, but seductive. To the point where it’s possible to waste entire days just walking around and soaking in the madness of it all; the shouts of the rickshaw drivers, the snatched tunes from passing cars, the burning briquettes and international romances in the clubs and bars.
At times it can be tense and overbearing, with carnivals and fights and riots on the streets, but in all that exhaustion comes a kind of peace. The city is working once more.
It’s a feeling that hits almost every place on earth, yet everywhere does it in it’s own way, and our experiences of these different summers in different cities leave indelible impressions on us.
In the darkest and longest nights of winter I think back to these short, hot nights of my past; of walking the streets of North London so sure that there would be someone having a party somewhere, of treading the too-hot-to-walk tiles of Madrid, and sitting on the Seine drinking the best supermarket wine on earth. I remind myself that these times will come back around, even when it seems like they never happened in the first place.
But without the winter we’d all just be living in the suburbs, where there is no weather and nothing ever changes.
Though we have to wait for it, summer in the city is where memories are born, daydreams are realised and modern life is really living. Even the greatest of metropolises can feel like a village until summer comes along.