To describe a Summer’s afternoon in London? We are overwhelmed by the sultry, option of single layered clothing to begin with. Still packing the cardie, just in case, as habit for a change in the weather is always constant. As if we don’t quite believe our mother sun will stay the distance, and packing sunglasses, well that is a vote of confidence to be sure. She did not fail us yesterday.
Leaving the flat, we stumbled on the beginnings of Wimbledon. The baskets of purple, white and green flowers suspended from the streetlights and despite the notice, eager tennis fans begin their vigil on the pavement opposite the flat. They have but one mission and the hours of waiting will not deter them from a ticket to the world’s most famous tournament. Blasé we are, nodding in acceptance that our lives will be filled with nine thousand fans of the game over the next two weeks. We will walk against the stream to work from tomorrow, but this Saturday afternoon we are making our way to the city, for a very special occasion. Taylor Swift is performing in Hyde Park and our tickets for this event surpasses our need to queue for Wimbledon.
Alighting at Bond Street, a mere fact becomes reality in the London Pride procession in Oxford Street. We are guests to the party, unbeknown but heightened by the passing of the Gay marriage laws in the US a day prior. This is a true celebration, music, costumes, men and women sharing in the euphoria of being … well being, recognised. Bikers, ambulance staff, banking staff, NHS staff, all are united for that one hour in a parade that had me grinning and wondrous at the revelling of … and let me think of saying this properly, of revelling in just being accepted and well, normal. Same sex marriages was not something I had ever given thought too in my past, but suddenly I was swept up in the whole idea of these wonderful people. And I was so aware of how much of a Londoner I had become. How accepting and tolerant, and at one I was with humans who chose a different path and actually live in a city that embraces them, as ordinary.
But we were late. Madison and I. Waiting to cross the street to meet Callan and Charley at Selfridges before our own journey to Hyde Park. Ah, Selfridges, the mother ship for us, they venue for wannabes, expensive clothes and shoes and those famous yellow paper bags. For us now, a shop in London. My London. I was on a high post parade and ready to face hours of standing, thinking, shoving to see Taylor Swift perform.
65 000 people, and us. Am I too old to do this , I thought. Do I want the space invasion and beer swilling and youth in my face evening? This is for my girls, I thought. For the fact that we can. Entry, relatively easy, wrist bands courtesy of Taylor slipped on and to find the spot best to see the show. The girls are bopping already, to youth. Me, not so into the mood just yet. We decline the fast food but succumb to the beer and pims whilst the evening is not evening, but full on sunshine. And I have to remind myself of the dark winters. This is the thing about living here, we die in the winter and when the summer comes, with daylight till way past nine, there is simply no better place to be. Only I am dressed for a safari, nothing like the bohemian throw back 70’s fashion I see all around me. I need some flowers in my hair, some crocheted top from my era, now back in fashion. And I smile – you people know nothing of the 70’s and my time, but it’s ok I will let you live now and I will think back. And be pleased that you think my era is significant.
Eight o’clock and the most successful performer in the world bursts onto the stage. No boundaries anymore, no age, no race, no bagging in check as Taylor brings her art, her music and her professionalism to the stage. I have been to so many concerts in my life, witnessed so many artists, and for two hours the crowd is transformed, are entertained by a young women who delivers a show that has me standing, has me dancing and has all of us, united, waving our illuminated wrist bands to and fro in a homage to this young lass, open to being vulnerable, writing her own music, showmanship, glamour and with the young children beside me, with families and hopeful youth, as we drink in a performance that made me long for days of diary writing, dressing well, romance and cookies. Never once taking a sip of water, never faltering in her creative excellence, we were slaves to creative genius. When I thought a moment would arrive to introduce the band, take a break, play the diva, dissolved in song, tribute and talent, I realised I was in the place of wonder. I could never do what this, young but imaginative and influential woman did. I saw perfection on a Saturday evening. The best performance I have been to, ever. I am humbled.
What does a young twenty six year old know of life, I thought. It did not matter. I was in the heart of a city, in the throes of a concert by a world class, eloquent performer and I was dancing with my girls – dancing and dancing and dancing without thought of loss, problems, life’s challenges but dancing. And dancing is the release of all of us. Being in the presence of someone who does what I could never achieve is not about being jealous, of being wanton, but being so unbelievably fortunate to share the moment. I learnt from a woman who can change the world with her music. I learnt from watching my girls thrive in that moment. I learnt that love transcends.
And I learnt is that I am a proud Londoner. On a Saturday afternoon. To bear the winters, to experience the best of British Summertime. For this afternoon, I was not old, not over, but young and ready to do more. I adore this city, the opportunities, the resilience and most of all the acceptance that we are all important.
Past mistakes, according to Taylor, does not make of one damaged goods. Shake it off, oh yes, shake if off and go for it!
So ladies and gentlemen, a summer’s afternoon in London.
P/c of The Independent.