Following a conference in London on Saturday, I made what was in retrospect an ill-advised trip to the rainy Cowley Road carnival. My usual reservoir of social charm was utterly exhausted, leaving an echoing, hard, empty chamber. I rattled round after K. for a while, who was taking photos for a local newspaper, but my heart wasn’t in it. When one of the worst pubs in east Oxford, Greene King’s James Street Tavern, spent ten minutes—yes, I timed it, and yes, I know—failing to acknowledge me at the very front of the crowd at the bar, I was rather glad of the excuse to go home.
Leaving the carnival, I felt my mood lift. It still rained, but prettily. I brushed past privet and rhododendrons and they sprayed me with green-smelling scent. Iffley Road was quiet, devoted to the task of handling twice as much traffic as usual, and I wandered along it. Just before the bus stop I rescued a billowing, broken umbrella: it was blocking the cycle lane. I carried it to the bus shelter and dropped it in the bin. Staring into the middle distance turned into staring at an approaching bus, and I read the LRB all the way home, falling into a long doze, ten minutes after walking through the door. My equilibrium was just about restored, but I could do with a weekend off. Roll on, August.