25 April 2006

Oor lente en die voorreg om weer op straat te lag

Van 'n vriend uit Johannesburg kom daar hierdie week 'n e-pos.

"Dit word nou vinnig koud hier en ek dink ons is in vir 'n kouerige winter," laat hy weet.

In Londen is die dae genadiglik besig om langer te rek. 'n Soel lentedag kan steeds grys wees, maar om die vaalheid op te vrolik is daar darem die plate geel affodille in die parke, die kersiebloeisels aan die bome en die magnolias.

O, die magnolias. Is daar enigiets meer uitspattig as 'n magnoliaboom in vol blom voor 'n vaalbaksteensemi in 'n Londense buurt?

Dis 'n gesig wat die ontberinge van die winter die moeite werd maak.

Vir my vriend in Johannesburg skryf ek: "Die winter mag koud wees, maar gelukkig is die mense daar warm."

Deur die lang, donker Britse winter het ek vergeefs gesoek na 'n warm glimlag onder die toegewikkelde lywe op straat. My laaste poging tot 'n terloopse grappie met 'n winkelassistent het so klaaglik misluk dat ek my voorgeneem het om die lawwe gewoonte te laat staan.

Maar ook die Britse stugheid, kom ek nou agter, is saam met die seisoene aan die draai en Londen in die lente het al hoe minder plek vir suurknolle.

Hoe kan dit anders as die hele landskap rondom jou begin te bloei?

Na vandeesweek glo ek vas dat die waterskeiding - die punt waar winterknorrigheid na somervreugde transformeer - saamval met die naweek waarin die Londen Marathon gehardloop word.

Duisende Londenaars het verlede naweek hulle swart strepiespakke vir hardloopfrokkies verruil om die strate van hul eeu-oue stad terug te eis van die rooi busse en swart taxi's deur die lang pad van Greenwich in die ooste na Buckingham Paleis in die weste te voet aan te pak.

Nuuskierig om die stad se kollektiewe persoonlikheidsverandering eerstehands te beleef was ek vroeg verlede Sondagoggend op 'n trein op pad na Tower Bridge, nie ver van die halfpadmerk van die marathon nie.

Londenaars sukkel gewoonlik om naweke uit die kooi te kom en dit is taamlik ongewoon om voor 10-uur in die oggend enige teken van lewe op straat te bespeur.

Verlede Sondag was egter die uitsondering op die ree"l en ten spyte van die vroee" uur het die stasieperonne van Kensington tot Westminster gewemel van die mense.

Vir iemand gewoond aan die vaal, stugge en boekerige atmosfeer van 'n Londense moltrein op 'n weeksoggend, was die atmosfeer op hierdie trein aansienlik meer opgewek.

Terwyl ek my verluister na die opgewekte gekekkel van 'n groepie jong vrywilligers van die St John's ambulansdiens op pad na die noodhulppos wat hulle vir die duur van die marathon gaan beman, kom ek agter daar is iets eienaardig aan hul optrede. Dan besef ek - dis die eerste keer in baie maande dat ek enigiemand op 'n ondergrondse trein uitbundige hoor lag.

'n Paar uur later staan ek op die beroemde toringbrug. 'n Klein lorrietjie kom verby. Die bestuurder slaan opgewonde 'n ritmiese deuntjie op die toeter. Die skare op die sypaadjie begin entoesiasties bruis.

Dan volg 'n motorfiets en oomblikke later die amper geluidlose tip-tap van 'n dosyn paar voete van die voorste peloton elite atlete.

Hulle swiesj verby voordat ek nog behoorlik die groot name in we^reldatletiek onder hulle kon identifiseer - my kreet van "go Hendrick go" te laat om enigsins as aansporing te dien vir Suid-Afrika se Hendrick Ramaala wat hom ook onder die voorste groep bevind.

Met die voorlopers al kilometers verder op pad na die wenstreep voor Buckingham Paleis daag die res van die deelnemers op. Eers drup-drup, dan 'n straaltjie totdat dit uiteindelik 'n onophoudelike moee", dog vriendelike stroom word wat oor die brug kronkel, regs draai in die rigting van Canada Wharf voordat hulle 'n haarnaalddraai maak om terug te keer na die Embankment en die Mall.

Baie, baie later die middag - meer as ses uur nadat Ramaala in die derde plek klaargemaak het - staan ek naby die Tower of London terwyl die agterosse verby my drentel.

Twee vriende in kameelkostuum hobbel verby. Dan 'n paar soldate in gelid, elk met 'n geweer teen die skouer en hul marathonnommers netjies op hul uniforms vasgespeld.

Wat tot die besluit gelei het om die marathon op die' manier aan te pak, sal net hulle weet.

'n Weddenskap na die tweede of derde pint by die kuierplek om die hoek? 'n Desperate poging om 'n paar ekstra pennies in te samel vir 'n welsynsorganisasie wat hulle na aan die hart le^ miskien?

Of is daar 'n ander, meer fundamentele rede waarom duisende stugge Londenaars reg deur die lang donker winter hard geoefen het - net om alle behoorlikheid oorboord te gooi deur met 'n waansinnige kostuum deur die strate van hul stad te hinkepink?

Kan dit wees uit dankbaarheid vir langer dae, vir geel affodille en die vreugde om weer op straat te lag?

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