Thursday, November 29, 2012


No sun, no smiles, November.

It’s either November in London or I’m on the set of ‘The Walking Dead’.

Most people I encounter look so damn miserable. However, being a Brit, I understand the cause. It is on account of The Weather.

The Weather is the eponymous British topic. People may be killing each other in Syria, we may be on a countdown to Armageddon, but The Weather will always take top billing. It is the reason why British marriages are unhappy, why we lost the Empire and why our teenage children are a nightmare. We forget that without The Weather the Spanish Armada would probably have succeeded in its goal and the British Isles would now be living on a staple diet of paella and sangria.

Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad now I come to think of it.

Well, London hasn’t really changed that much since my last visit here in 1666 when the bubonic plague victims were piled high in the streets. True, there weren’t any Starbucks outlets in those days, but there were people emptying chamber-pots out of upstairs windows which, metaphorically speaking, is the modern equivalent.

Sometimes it’s tough being an immortal. You always seem to remember the bad times.


The Christmas bulbs are all a-twinkling along Oxford Street. Bizarrely, there are huge golden MARMITE advertisements strung across the thoroughfare (as if life wasn’t bad enough). Regents Street is hung with the Twelve Days of Christmas lights, and there are a few True Loves wandering its length gazing moodily into each other’s eyes. Just wait until the smelly nappies arrive, that’s all I can say.

The statue of Eros is surrounded by some as-yet-to-be-determined hoardings.

Soho is as depressing as ever.

Christmas? Bah, humbug.

(I think Scrooge got a bad press. And I always had the desire to kick away Tiny Tim’s crutches. He used to irritate the crap out of me)

Nevertheless the posh shops still have tourists in them. They look Russian to me. After squeezing the economic life out of American visitors for the last few decades, we are now hosting Russians. They promise to be a tougher proposition. Some of them may even carry guns. And after a lifetime of Siberian winters I don’t suppose they are going to be intimidated by The Weather. They’re not Spanish after all.

Yet in spite of my best efforts at grumpiness, the architecture of the old Capital still exercises a pull; still brings an ache to the heart. I have the feeling that at some level this is still “home” despite my terrestrial wanderings and my fondness for the warmth and exoticism of South East Asia.

I stand upon Westminster Bridge. It is dark. A chilled memory of history climbs noiselessly over the parapet and fixes itself in my mind; inculcates itself beneath my protective layers. Below me, the Thames flows sluggishly and reluctantly towards the sea.

Perhaps Wordsworth was right. I've never thought so before, but perhaps he was. Perhaps Earth indeed has not anything to show more fair.

I turn away from the river and look up at a night sky heavy with cloud.

I adjust my scarf and put my hands back in my pockets.

It is time to leave.


  1. You don't need this, want this, but you get it anyway: I LOVED THIS POST!

    Can't remember but think I told family roots are in a hamlet north of London. The hamlet is called Chetwode (Chitwood! Get it? Of course you do...) in Buckinghamshire. It's a lovely spot, with a Priory and a few houses. Julie Anne and I visited there back in 2006 - rather emotional, scraping away the grit off gravestones in the Priory's 'yard' to find names and dates. Go visit Chetwode sometime! You will feel closer to me! Yuck, yuck! :-)

    AND, good news for you! I'm not nominating you for anything!


  2. Hey, Billy Ray, always glad to have comments. Even from Americans :-)

  3. John. Another American comment: You described London in a way that gave me a hint as to my impressions when visiting. I managed to shake off the outside in the pub where the locals were as warm as toast (American toast). I was also glad to be alive after stepping off the curb in front of too many cabs. "Stupid Yank," was my nickname.

  4. All comments welcomed, John, whether or not American :) London is ... well, London. A city of pluses and minuses, of culture and subculture, of the old and the new. But it is a kind of home.
    And Yanks are not stupid. That's a tautology :)