April 14, 2008


Spring has fallen on the city like a benediction. The sun warms the grimy pavements, charming weed shoots through the cracks and drawing blind thistles up under tarmac in unlikely bulges. Across the capital grass begins to grow, re-greening the gardens, the swathes of public park and the infrequent verges with their cargo of dogshit and litter and cuckoospit. Even the secretly vernal waste ground where stand hoardings or rot sleepers and huge wooden drums once wound with cable, even these abandoned corners of the Great Wen are warmed by the spring sunshine and become rank and dizzy with life.

Brixton’s township terraces are once again jubilant with birds. They sing out riotously from street lamp, sill and gutter, they colonise the scrubby parks. Birds haunt the tangled grounds behind which incongruous mock-Tudor houses hide; they grace the windowsills above grimy shop-fronts entirely overtaken by busy posters promising cheap calls, and their avian assemblies are hosted by SW2’s terraced roofs. The democratic birds love Brixton, and it glories in them. They are its chorus in spring, they are the year’s long high note, and in autumn their faltering notes will be summer's threnody.

But for now the spring sunshine brings a new mood of optimism everywhere it falls. Workmen leave doors and windows open, causing all but the most stubbornly unmusical to fall into step with their radios as they pass. Up and down the High Road’s tributaries, women, bound by the same circadian rhythm, swap gloves for sunglasses in their everyday handbags. And in the afternoons the kids stream screaming out of the school gates, eager not for home and TV, but just to be out, free, in the burgeoning world.

The year is on the turn, and the sure knowledge of it steals over South London like the moment a downpour eases and the hunched commuters can raise their eyes from the shining pavement, relax their shoulders and look forward once again.