It's the summer of the ice cream van. Maybe I was oblivious last year but the ice cream van wasn't around half as much as it is now. All day, every day: the inanity of the song, as it weaves in and out of our neighborhood streets. I can't even hum it now; it's just a constant backdrop.
"Oh, give it a rest, will you?" we say when we hear the tinkling notes from afar. We cringe as it comes nearer. But I don't know if we really mind. It means that it's summertime. I never see anyone buy ice cream from the van, but maybe, in a weird sort of way, we're all just comforted by its presence.
It's been hot here. Hot enough to hang laundry outside and have it dry alarmingly fast. While I'm hanging our shirts and trousers and undergarments I notice a cat who has curled up at the far end of the garden, next to the potato patch. He looks as if he's guarding the vegetables; he stretches a paw, yawns, settles his head against the warm concrete.
At midday I open the window upstairs wide and stick my head out of it to get some fresh air. I like being able to peer down; sometimes, at night, when we hear strange things, we do the same thing. It's amazing how much you can see when the street doesn't think you're watching.
I go for a run; I take a circuitous route that leads me to the top of South Park, where I find myself looking down at the spired skyline below. There's a little haze hanging in the afternoon air, so that the spikes of Magdalen tower look soft. On the swing set, a pair of teenagers are pumping their legs furiously.
One of them, the boy, says, "I'm going to jump!" The girl giggles coyly, but when she sees he's serious, she says, "Don't do it, Will. It's too high Will." She has very short hair, a sort of 1920's bob, and a striped t-shirt.
Her voice changes as he prepares to leap.
"Will NO! Will, I'm begging you, no!" She says. She implores him so earnestly I turn to watch; he pumps his legs one last time and propels himself from the seat of the swing. He is suspended; then he lands in an awkward cat-crouch, off-balance. He falls to his knees, rolls sideways. He whoops and begins to laugh very hard. The girl, who had sounded so desperate, is laughing too. Her shoulders are shaking with giggles and she ceases to move her legs, just rolling forwards, backwards on the swing.
A woman walks past talking to a tiny, fluffy white dog. The boys with the remote-control helicopter at the crest of the hill pin their eyes skyward to watch it hover; perspective makes it seem that it could be real, could be hanging just above the point of an Oxford tower.
I take a lukewarm shower and think of all of the things I need to do.
I take the laundry inside to the tune of the ice cream van.