Picture by Kake Pugh: Beckton Park DLR Station
Spring comes all of a sudden, long before it’s due.
Yesterday all the coats were grey or black. This morning there’s pale green, and pink, and right in front of Annika there’s glowing golden yellow, embroidered daffodils with beading on the stamen. It’s the daftest thing she’s seen in six months, and it makes her so happy.
These aren’t new clothes; nature’s seasons have been quicker than the high street’s, this time around. Some of the coats still show folds from where they’ve been stashed in boxes or pushed to the back of a cupboard, crumpled and ignored since May. Some of them must have been bought last-minute in 2008’s spring or summer sales, price tags torn out only this morning. Some of them are ugly by the new year’s standards, orange and pink stripes, blue plaid. It doesn’t matter: this isn’t fashion, it’s celebration, it’s an involuntary startled hodgepodge of colour and growth. It’s a confused squirrel digging up the very first crocus, an early bumblebee warming its fat bottom until it’s buoyant enough to lift into air.
This is the mark of the new season: the casting off of winter’s thick dark wool. Men’s scarves are hanging loose, no longer looped into a tight winter knot.
There are still plenty of the old coats about, of course: Annika is wrapped in charcoal, her scarf dark red. She doesn’t feel left out. There’s no exclusionary sisterhood of colourful outerwear. It’s just spring. She stands in the same place she always does, and for the first time in months, sunlight hits the tip of her shoes before the train arrives.
It’s dark when she gets home that night, but she leaves the lights off anyway to summon in long evenings.
The gloom makes it harder to work out where her own spring coat might be: folded up in the bottom of the blanket box? Pushed to the back of the closet behind the vacuum cleaner? In the end she finds it right at the bottom of the laundry basket, tangled in two towels and a pillowcase. The moths have been kind, and taken only the pillowcase, which has three wide holes in almost the right places for robbing a bank or amusing a small child. Annika pulls it over her head, laughs out of the mouth-hole, then stumbles down the stairs in the dark.
It’s spring, though, and a twisted ankle is nothing much. The next morning she wears her bright coat and limps down the platform to stand in what should be full sunlight. The sky is white, and snows a little, unexpectedly, but she can tell it doesn’t really mean it.