Today was the most beautiful warm and sunny day, with a cloudless pale blue sky. For several weeks, apart from a few rainy days, we've had days of a gorgeous sunlight, which is crisp and clear and lights up everything without dazzling you. It's a sixties light, my daughter said, and I sort of knew what she meant. Well, I associated it with sixties films like Antonioni's Blow Up which had just that sort of colour in them.
London really has looked more beautiful this summer than I ever remember it. That's partly because of the continuing process of gentrification and renewal, but also because so many areas-- like the walk from London Bridge station to the Tate Modern -- have become the focus of clusters of successful cafes and outdoor venues, alongside the now firmly established newer sights like the Globe Theatre and the London Eye. It's much more common than it used to be to see imaginatively lit up walkways and bridges at night. My favourite is walking from outside the Tate Modern, where there are clusters of young trees which are lit in banks of colours like dull orange or mauve, to cross the Millenium Bridge. It is beautifully and ethereally lit at night with shafts of pale blue and silvery white, and where you see the stunning sight of St Paul's Cathedral fully floodlit as if it was a giant fantasy palace right at the end of your walk.
The other thing is that because of the July bombings there has been a huge drop in the number of tourists in London. I usually avoid central London if I can at this time of year, because the streets are unpleasantly crowded. But this year, there have been no crowds, and the streets are clean. The ticket agencies are advertising seats for top shows at discounted prices. I had no trouble getting a party of six of us a front row cafe table on Covent Garden piazza, no waiting. Earlier this month, I drove my daughter down to the Tate Modern for the animation course she was doing there, based on the current Frieda Kahlo exhibition. I dropped her off and drove towards home along the Embankment. There was so little traffic at ten in the morning that it felt as if I owned the road, and was sweeping along one of the great Corniche roads, with the renaissance buildings and the Inns of Court by the river golden and crisp in the sunlight.