Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Summertime city

Summer in the city is a strange time. Everything seems easier. It’s sunny. It’s warm. People even smile, sometimes. New build dwellers get to know each other better than ever before. Not because residents well up with a newfound love of humanity, and visit bearing well chosen gifts, but because – with the doors and windows open – we can hear everything. That’s music, rows, sex, dogs, general chit chat, phone calls, TV shows broadcast throughout the block. I wonder if I am the only resident to have worked out that when you stand on the balcony, we can hear everything.

Barbecues can be a problem; the stench of half burned, half raw economy sausages permeates the air. The smoke sets off a cascade of smoke alarms, but there’s something heroic about this British urge to cook outside, feeding guests from a disposable BBQ on a tiny cramped terrace.

People stand contorted in the most improbable positions trying to catch the sun, enjoying that brief opportunity when full strength rays bathe the balcony. One man even stands naked in what he imagines is his private fifth floor eyrie. We can all see his secrets, and I really wish we couldn’t.

The sounds which waft gently upwards are often surprisingly pleasant. My neighbour is evidently as keen on Neutral Milk Hotel as I am. Someone else played The Avalanches, an album I had forgotten about - lovely to hear it floating into my lounge. Then Evil Trance Neighbour started blaring out tunage: horrible deep spod techno. Someone always just has to go and spoil it.

In the evening, under the hopeful reddish night sky, the thick sultry air smells of weed, soap powder (everyone can dry their washing outside now), smoke and pizza. People learn how to whisper on the balcony again, fearful, their secrets will be heard. I don’t imagine I’ll ever befriend the neighbours. But there’s a feeling that I know more about them, somehow.

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