I have the good fortune to live in an unusual little corner of London overlooking a decommissioned dock that is now used for training small children to sail, adults to kayak, and other healthy maritime pursuits. On hot days it attracts merry bands of revellers seeking a way to cool off, diving merrily into the cold and greenish water despite the large “DANGER — No swimming” signs everywhere.
While I don’t begrudge people their nautical enjoyments in the slightest, I must admit that my favourite times are when rain drives our enthusiastic revellers away and I can enjoy the sound of swans, coots, the wind in the trees, and the hiss of rain. Under the awning of my upstairs neighbour’s balcony I’m usually well-protected enough to sit out watching this little diorama of nature enfolded by bustling London.
At these times I remember sitting on the front porch of the house where I grew up watching rainstorms with my father, the damp-laden air keeping the smoke from his cigar wafting lazy and low around us. There was a singularity to those moments, redolent with cigar and the moist smell of the sea and portentous with impending thunder and the sudden startling dazzle of lightning, which felt like the orb of the world I could see from our porch held everything that the universe could ever offer.
Now, on another continent facing out on a strange little sea from my protected eyrie, I know that to be true.