London has been sizzling in summer heat… and it is not a city that is at its best in a heatwave. The vast tower blocks with sheets and sheets of glass in ribs of steel are horrible places in which to work, and they also project searing heat on to the streets below…especially the new “walkie talkie” curved giant slab in the centre of the City itself. This vast construction is curved to form an ugly gimmicky shape so it trains white-hot lines of heat on to the street and into parked cars and shops. Last summer, the steering wheels and radios and gearboxes of cars melted and burned, just as wood does when a child holds a piece of glass in front of it to catch the sun. (I remember being shown how to burn one’s initials into a piece of wood that way, long summers ago). This summer, the problem is still with us but I noticed that the central windows in the ugly horror now have blinds on them. So the workers inside cannot see out – but at least one part of London is saved from a fire.
The summer weather does, however, mean that London’s processions and parades and protest marches can fill the streets. There are lots of marches with banners and shouting at the moment with the big Moslem factions from across Britain on the move in London and elsewhere. Traffic is halted, police are in their heavy ugly body-protection gear and bristling with equipment – all a long, long way from the old images of “London bobbies” – and there’s a sense of anger in the heavy air.
In all this, Catholic processions are a note of calm. Corpus Christi processions are a feature of London in June: parishes across the city and its suburbs have them. I took part in one organised by St Patrick’s in Soho, and that same evening there was one linking the famous Jesuit church in Farm Street, Mayfair, to St James’ church in Spanish Place. In the morning, the parish of the Precious Blood in The Borough on the south bank of the Thames had held its procession: girls in white First Communion dresses strewing flowers while the boys walked as guards of honour alongside the Blessed Sacrament…
The procession organised by Precious Blood parish has made its own small bit of history: last year’s procession was filmed by a French TV crew making a travel feature about London, and it duly featured as one of the famous bits of London tradition that tourists ought not to miss! The Rector and the parishioners feel justly proud of being right up there along with the Changing of the Guard and the Trooping of the Colour, even if in the case of the Precious Blood procession, it is only a very brief clip.
And soon it will be August and then parish life seems to go into eclipse as people take off to the seaside, either to Spain or Italy or elsewhere on the Continent, or in Britain on a “stay-cation”. Sunday attendance at London’s churches is smaller, though tourists and other visitors pour into Westminster Cathedral – incidentally gloriously cool even on the hottest of days. And then September comes, and children are seen in their school uniforms, and the cooler weather arrives.