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London Calling

Emily Passey

Gershwin’s romantic writing makes fog seem pleasant. I was expecting fog and rain. I was expecting a lot of rain actually – it is spring after all, and who doesn’t like rain in spring?
I was expecting London to be a city of quick-draw umbrellas and Burberry trench coats.
It probably is this way normally and probably will be by the time you’re reading this column, but for now let me tell you about London in the 70s (degree of weather that is, not the age of disco).
First, let’s think about London as that romantically gray place. There are enough museums in London to cover almost all of the cloudy, rainy days there could be in a year.
Gershwin even notes that “the British Museum had lost its charm,” thus making it clear that it was constantly gray for him in London.
It should, in fact, be cloudy and rainy so that a person actually wants to traverse inside a stony, dark building for hours at a time.
A lot of the big museums like the British are free and house magnificent collections of art and artifacts. They are must-sees.
However, I haven’t seen the inside of many of these places because I can’t seem to tear myself away from the sun.
When it gets warm in Appleton, you can count on Main Hall Green to be a sea of scantily clad students with Frisbees and maybe a pile of books or two.
Flip-flops make their way onto the street again and suddenly it is more than acceptable, it is expected that everyone wear as little as possible for as long as possible.
Well, London in the warm springtime is just the same. Warmth in the spring is different from summer warmth because it is so unexpected and so utterly new that it seems to prompt absolutely radical wardrobe and outlook changes.
I spent Saturday in Bath, a small town about an hour and a half west of London by train. Bath looks a bit like a transplanted Tuscan town – hilly with flowers and yellow-stoned, Italianate architecture – and in the warmth and sun it was even more Tuscan.
People ate ice cream, flopped around in sandals and shorts, and generally soaked it up.
There is a gorgeous park in Bath which slopes down from a sort of street called the Royal Crescent.
It was the most crowded place to be, even more crowded than the Roman Baths Museum, because who wants to be in a museum when it’s 75 degrees in April (seriously, I’m troubled by this)?
My travel mates and I even decided to do the cheapest thing there is to do in Bath: play mini golf.
At home there are frequently warm spells in the early spring, but the trouble is that there is nothing to do because nothing opens until May in Wisconsin.
This is the pleasure of being in the U.K., where they know how to capitalize on nice weather (and tourists) and make a point of opening everything in April (even though it’s not usually like this in April).
Thus, the ice cream trucks run and the mini golf course and lawn bowling green are open and in good use at the drop of a hat if the mercury should happen to rise.
For a 78-degree Sunday in the city, everyone who resides close to Hyde Park (and even those who don’t, I imagine) came out in bathing suits, board shorts, flip-flops and summer dresses.
Picnics, games of “footy” or Frisbee (sometimes thrown dangerously close to my head), or just sun-basking – trying to get as tan as it is possible to do in one afternoon – were a few of the activities of choice in the park.
So, with weather like this, you are no doubt asking yourself, why do we associate London with fog?
Where are those romantic gray days? Well, I don’t know the answers to those questions. I imagine that Mr. Gore might have something to say about this weather, though.