We're in a transition period. Slowly autumn's auburn skin peels away and reveals the ominous and stern London winter. The one that flicks open its sharp razor every year and, with its white foam, shaves the remaining leaves off the branches, thus, finishing off autmn's job. It's that time of the year when the early twilight tempts us to a cup of steaming hot chocolate or coffee. Or maybe a tall Mocha, to balance things up. The weekend paper lies on our lap. Looking through the door on to the back garden I see the fading sun rays spilling on to the shrinking undergrowth. I bend down to grab my mug and what's left of my coffee and when I look back up it's gone. The light's gone. The neighbouring houses are sinking rapidly into a monochromatic landscape of dark greys and blacks, like 2D figures in a shadow animation.
I've never been a big fan of the London winter except for its mornings and nights. The former brings rich lashes of mist layering themselves on top of each other, sandwiched between a never-ending humidity on the ground and a crisp, howling northeasterly wind whipping my face and a label that announces "Best served chilled". In those early hours the sky is yet to acquire its Arctic-blue complexion, usually attained at midday. That's why sunrise presents us with a combination of hues that travel from a pale rosé to a fierce claret. For a moment you forget about the hot (but not boiling) water you have to pour regularly on the car's windshield and windows to get rid of the ice and the manoeuvres you have to perform every day to warm the car up before setting off on your journey in case the engine switches itself off because of the cold.
Winter nights appear as downward spirals whose motion remind me of curtains closing on a memorable performance. You're left with the indelible memory of a bright - or, as in London, most of the time grey - day and a cold snap. Summer is all about the moment, the here and then. Heat is conducive to lapsus mentis. Winter likes to lie back in its seat and enjoy the show. The sky darkening at around three in the afternoon. The morning mist, temporarily dissipated during the day, surfacing again on the urban horizon at tea time. Our shapes being swallowed by the early evening blur. This is winter playing hide'n'seek as usual.
It's not the thermometre clocking in at -5C that disconcerts me. It's the lack of snow. Without a white carpet laid out on my doorstep it's hard to take in the bare landscape. It's as if someone's written an essay and left all the verbs out. With no active or passive voice, how am I to make sense of the big, yellowish-orange arch fast plunging into the total darkness?
And yet, when it arrives this absence of light is welcomed. As my surroundings become dimmer, I position my reading lamp by my side and sit cross-legged either on the couch or at the kitchen table with a mug of a hot, steaming concoction of chamomile, mint and green tea in my hand. Winter is here, I might not like it, but I'm ready to let it in.
Next Post: “Living in a Bilingual World”, to be published on Wednesday 7th December at 11:59pm (GMT)
Photo taken from the Town and Travel website.