Of gusts and shadows
Buffeted and battered by one wind tunnel too many
Monday 01 May 1995
GB Venturi (1746-1822) was an Italian physicist, and the Venturi Effect describes how the wind accelerates when it blows between tall buildings. It can be most unpleasant. It pulls umbrellas inside out and causes flared trousers to flap wildly round the ankles. It snatches sheaths of valuable documents from your hands and litters them under taxis. It is enough to drive you crazy.
It's a cold wind, too. Even in summer it never seems to warm up. The Lovin' Spoonful once sang that there "doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city", but this is, in fact, wrong. There are lots of shadows and the darkest ones are in the windiest streets. It's all horribly bleak.
The worst part, as I said, is that there's no one to blame. Nobody to seize by the shoulders and give a damn good shaking, because nothing can be done. We can't hold Sir Christopher Wren nor Sir Richard Rogers responsible for cities being windy - that would be akin to accusing Michael Fish of fixing the weather.
Still, it's a bit much having to put up with the show-off antics of seagulls flying backwards in the headwind along Baker Street. Or, worse, having our hair tousled by a great, big invisible hand. Thank God for Black and White "Long Hold" hair conditioner, that's what I say; or even for Brylcreem. "Get a hat," my grandmother would have said: they all wore hats in her day. If the wind blew they just pulled them down harder.
Nowadays if someone wears a hat they are generally thought to be trying to build their personality around it. Look what happened to Malcolm Allison: he was taken over by his hat. No, only someone like Frank Sinatra could pull that off. And it would have to be somewhere like Chicago - the world's official "windy city". It doesn't sound like my kind of town at all.
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