I used to think I was thoroughly aware of my five senses and accustomed to what each of those senses were likely to experience in this city. That was until I began spending 20 or so hours a week working outside, in London's parks, in every season.
In the same way that some languages have certain words for certain cultural notions that cannot be satisfactorily translated into other languages (think Hygge, or that fact/ urban myth about Eskimos have 25 words for types of snow), I am at this point convinced their ought to be words for the following particular and often seasonal feelings and concepts that I am now acutely aware of, but don't quite have words for.
1. The dampening of human sound that comes with the return of leaves to the branches and birds to the leaves. As spring comes into full force, our voices, footsteps, even the sound of hot breath hitting cold air are squeezed into insignificance as the natural world once again takes the wheel, big and full and commanding, catching our complaints and ranting before they even have chance to filter above the highest branches.
2. The smell of spring, then, is the opposite of the smell of Autumn. It is light, clear, fleeting. It doesn't linger, doesn't sit heavy on your chest, yet we crave it, breathe it in more deeply, try to carry it with us. It smells like hope. If you think I'm exaggerating, just you wait until next month, on the first proper spring morning. That will be the freshest air you ever breathed and you'll smile and think 'there should be a name for this'.
3. The distinct and sudden shrinking of personal space boundaries in London from the first hot day of summer onwards. Familiar standoffish-ness between Londoners in open spaces is all at once replaced with a real palpable sense of proximity, of shared air and shared conversation.
4. Forget freshly cut grass, the smell of a London summer evening outdoors is in fact marked by the particular and specific confluence of fragrances of cider, disposable barbecues, and Camel blue cigarettes.
5.Autumn and spring mornings smell completely different. The smell of an Autumn morning is deep, heavy, barky, earthy. It hits you slowly but it lingers on your chest. There is a bitterness to it that makes it not-quite-satisfying, and on the darkest mornings at the edge of Winter, perhaps a little foreboding.
6. The overnight disappearance of solid ground under foot. As leaves fall, our parks seem to give in and turn to a squelchy mulch of mud and leaves and churned up grass that is no longer a safe place to firmly tread. Our basking plains of summer are suddenly uneven, whipped up mudbaths, as, hands deeply thrust into pockets, we start to take the long way round.
7. The delicious crunch of frozen grass underfoot, the sound of it, deep and crisp. At 6am, when nobody else is about, it is the most satisfying sound in the world. There should be a word for that.
8. The rowdy cacophony of London's uber confident urban foxes, and their use as nature's alarm clock on those dark winter mornings when you feel like it can't possibly be time to get up yet, but somehow their timing is always on point.
9. The weird science-magic of extremities being too cold and too hot in the winter. First, outside, toes tingling then burning-aching because your shoes are too thin, then as you step into a steaming hot shower, the water falls like droplets of ice on your feet until they reach body temperature equilibrium again. Painful/ fascinating.
10. The certain temperature drop in winter as the sun rises, just by a couple of degrees, before it slowly picks up again at about 8am. You KNOW the drop is going to come, but somehow every morning it seems surprising. Probably because Apple's weather app never mentions it. Because Apple's weather app has never actually had to spend every winter morning out in the elements.