Richard Lutz reviews his past week.
Down the M6 motorway that runs through the west side of Britain, taking in traffic from all over.
It’s more a linear car park than a highway. It’s closed for three junctions and roadworks seem endless – warnings such as “Repairs for next 176 miles” seem to litter the roadside. It has something to do with creating a ‘smart motorway’ and no two people have defined what that means.
I’m heading home after a while away. The house is the same. There are the pictures, the kitchen, the stain in the carpet, the garden. But I forget where things are: Where are the scissors, what day is the rubbish picked up, where are the spare batteries kept?
It’s all mundane. But it’s telling how the minute things of life add up to something important. On this crazy planet, home is important. Crucial. It is an anchor and I want to know where the toothpaste is.
When I return, even before ripping through the mail, I always have a cup of coffee (where’s my favourite cup?) and sit and think: Is this old place still my house, my centre, my home? It still is.
The house creaks in the same place, sighs in the same way, lets the sun flow in through the south facing window (albeit through dirty panes). Maybe one day, I’ll have that cup of coffee and it won’t be home, but just a building.
I’m greeted, as all Britain is, by brown grass, dead flowers, droopy bushes. It hasn’t rained in weeks….months.
City people have cast off clothes and everyone seems to walk a pace slower in the heat of the day, the warmth of the evening. People wait for a breeze. The parks are rammed. Kids play outside like “in the old days”.
The last time I lived through a hot British summer was forty years ago. We lived in a place fed by a hill stream. It dried up and we filled buckets from the nearby town to keep us clean, cook and wash.
It jettisoned us back a century or two when it took time and energy to get through a day, especially with a toddler.
The urban scorcher is best conjured up, I find, by two songs from the long ago past: Summer in the City by The Loving Spoonful and Long Hot Summer by Jimi Hendrix. Both get that gritty feel of a city and heat, the windows open, the rattling air con on full blast, the radio singing out through an open window.