All the fun of fresh air. Plus Cross­word and Quiz

I crave great big gulps of fresh air – but first I have to leave this clogged-up city

The Guardian - Weekend - - Front Contents -

It must look as though I am a thief, or at the very least up to no good. You see, I can no longer ex­pose my lower face to the streets of Lon­don. When I was younger, and Con­verse soles beat city streets, I’d hop from bar to bar ex­pos­ing many things: legs, torso, an ado­les­cent need for ac­cep­tance, a too-high tol­er­ance for al­co­hol. Now, walk­ing on city pave­ments, it feels as though I have put an ex­haust pipe in my mouth and sucked hard, like the fi­nal cig­a­rette I had. I have gone from mock­ing tourists who wear masks – look­ing as though they are about to em­bark on vig­or­ous floor­board sand­ing – to brows­ing shops for sim­i­lar.

Of course, the cam­paign for clean air has been sig­nif­i­cantly harmed by white peo­ple with dread­locks and dudes with This Ma­chine Kills Fas­cists stick­ers. But fill in your post­code on a gov­ern­ment web­site and it will tell you ex­actly how much your child will be choked on her way to school, the daily filth fill­ings her lungs. Not to be a downer, but the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has es­ti­mated that air pol­lu­tion kills 7 mil­lion peo­ple a year world­wide. OK, that is quite a downer.

For those of us who live in cities, ar­riv­ing in the coun­try­side is… well, I imag­ine it is how foot­ballers feel when they sleep in hy­per­baric cham­bers. Like be­ing held un­der­wa­ter, gut­ter­ing, chok­ing, drown­ing, to quote Wil­fred Owen, and then bob­bing up cork-like. The coun­try roads I moaned about on trips as a kid, the stench of cow pat, the scratches from bram­bles, are a small price to pay now for the ab­sence of diesel taste on the tongue. How much I love the wind whip­ping up the salty ether of the Cum­brian coast and dis­si­pat­ing the tense, muscular knots of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

A Cana­dian com­pany is even sell­ing com­pressed air from the Rocky Moun­tains. The jars hold (ap­par­ently) about 160 breaths and cost $32, about £20. Or­ders are big from In­dia and China. Quit­ting fags made me crave bet­ter and big­ger breaths be­cause when the cilia in my wind­pipe started to work again, I re­alised what I had been miss­ing. You don’t know what you haven’t got un­til it re­turns.

Fin­land, I have learned, has the best air qual­ity in the world. Of course it does. Fin­land is the best at ev­ery­thing. Fin­land is the straight-A stu­dent who never even both­ers to re­vise. I want to o go to Fin­land then, sit on the edge of a lake with my feet in the wa­ter and gulp for eter­nity

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.