Thanks in part to the unseasonably good weather round our way, there's been an odd (but not unpleasant) atmosphere in the city this week. I think it's probably compounded by the fact that the schools are on half term holiday, which makes travelling to and from work a far less fraught and frustrating kind of experience. It also means I don't have to get up until 20 minutes after I usually would, since the roads are so quiet: well, relatively quiet anyway. Even the bus drivers are uncommonly cheerful, which is actually quite unsettling, so rare is it.
But - it's more than just a case of being quieter on the roads either side of the working day. Nor is it merely a case of the change in atmosphere being due to the unexpected sensation of the city being drenched in glorious, golden sunlight.
What has struck me, as I've walked along at the beginning of my day, is that it reminds me of a very early morning in late spring or summer: bright, pleasantly warm, and almost eerily still. Stop walking and, save for occasional birdsong, the quietness has been amazing.
The equivalent happened as I headed through the backstreets of town on my way from work this afternoon: it felt like a late spring evening, and the atmosphere practically demanded of me that I take my time and enjoy the moment. Even the car parks and industrial buildings, the alleyways and the canal where the drinkers congregate seemed pleasant enough places to take pause for a few moments (I could be cynical and say that this was because the sun was in my eyes and it was difficult to see at all, but I'll let that pass).
I suppose the slight feeling of eeriness that I'm getting at is because, whilst in no way unwelcome, it's way too soon for us to be having such a spell of weather. At this time of year, such conditions seem to alter the sense of time, so that my first couple of waking hours feel like 5am in June, and the late afternoon sun feels like 9pm midsummer. Take the school run away from the equation, and that just intensifies the whole feeling.
Mind you, thinking about it, this state of affairs also reminds me of the opening weekend of the 2002 World Cup finals. That was over the course of a bank holiday weekend in May (I think) and, since the tournament was in Japan and South Korea, many of the pubs were opening at ridiculously early hours of the day and serving breakfast for those who wanted to watch the first games. Come 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the legions of diehard footie fans (and drinkers), spurred on by fine weather and a long weekend before they had to return to work, were as inebriated as they would be at the end of a hectic Saturday night.
I remember wandering through the locale and feeling like I was walking through the village of the damned (I haven't seen the film of the same name but the phrase seemed to fit): all the carnage of a late night illuminated by the bright afternoon sun. A couple of inert bodies lay in the gutter; two people were stood in the middle of the road (there was barely any traffic since everyone appeared to be in the pub) trying to have a fight, violently swinging punches and looking puzzled as to why they didn't connect.
The fact was that these inebriated adversaries were a good ten feet away from each other, and it would have been amusing to watch - were it not all so odd and faintly grotesque. Further down the road a man in a similar state of intoxication tried and utterly failed to jump over the wall, 1ft high as it was, that stood between him and the entrance to the off-license.
Well, back to this week and its altogether more pleasant sense of disconnect. May as well get used to it, I'm sure we'll have much more of this kind of thing in the years to come; on the other hand, I may as well make the most of it for now, since the forecast indicates rain and snow come the weekend. At least it'll actually feel like February.