Thursday, July 20, 2006
Central London, Wednesday 2:30pm
It is, quite literally, the height of summer.
Nobody is attempting to fry an egg on the pavement, but this would be the afternoon to try. The queue for the Oasis swimming pool stretches out of the front door, down the steps and round the corner into a sidestreet. Potential punters bathe not in refreshing chlorine but in sunlight and sweat. It's Dress Down Wednesday, although for many this means only a slightly loosened tie rather than a t-shirt and shorts. Freckles, tattoos and cellulite are willingly exposed for further charring. An unexpectedly refreshing breeze rustles the trees down Shaftesbury Avenue. In the Soho Fire Station a fiery red engine stands by with all doors thrown open wide. A tired mother saunters along beneath a yellow parasol, trailing two toddlers left exposed to the sun's direct glare.
In Piccadilly Circus a large placard points potential punters towards "½ PRICE TANNING". Business is not brisk. Tourists flop down in the shadow of Eros, occasionally dipping body parts into the cooling fountain. A double decker number 19 sauna trundles past. It's hot as hell at the foot of Regent Street, and Sinner Winner Man is here to save your flaming soul. He stands bare-chested on the traffic island, megaphone in hand, beckoning passers-by to Jesus. Nobody stops for conversation or conversion, but few have the energy to speed past. A bewildered old lady emerges up the stairs from the sweltering underworld, dressed in cottage-style floppy hat and long grey socks. She gently perspires, while London sweats.
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