Sunday 4 December 2011

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

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.

© 2011

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.


  1. What a beautifully written post, so atmospheric I'm almost tempted to swop our sunny Southern December for a slice of your London winter (with the snow, of course)

    Your post resonates with Keats' acceptance of the seasons of life and time in his "Ode to Autumn": "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness...Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
    Think not of them, thou hast thy music too..."


    Judy, South Africa

  2. It's the short days, less light, I dislike about winter but it does drive me to hunker down with my musical instruments and that's a good thing.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Cuban,
    Wish i could experience that winter weather and play with the snow! When my kid sees snow in the photos "why they throw soap foam in the streets?''.
    In Dar es salaam,we experience a 38C temperature at the moment am writing this comment.As Judy said,wish i could swap this hot weather for that winter of yours.
    Greetings from Tanzania.

  5. A masterful description, so much so that it almost made me nostalgic for the winters I lived with for more than half my life. Then, of course, I blinked and realized I am where I want to be, in warm sunny climes. Still, that does not detract from the fact that this is beautifully written. One of your best.

  6. Thank you very much for your comments. It's a grey day here in London and I'm about to go out for a run. Have a relaxing Sunday.

    Greetings from London.

  7. A beautiful written piece. I love how you describe your surroundings..I too look outside my window and see the white carpet of snow and I admire it but..(it was not fun driving to work yesterday!)
    how a wonderful Sunday!

  8. Nice post! Yes there are homely compensations on dark days, and wintery food is such a consolation too! I'll shortly be blogging about smoked salmon...

  9. This is such beautiful writing of place and setting, Cuban. I was completely lulled and mesmerized. Thank you for so perfectly evoking your city's winter to this person in sunny southern California.

  10. Well, there're still a couple of weeks to go before it's "officially" winter, but the temperature's plummeted a bit int he last couple of days and right now it's raining very hard.

    Great run I went on today. And that's where the early winter evening comes in. There's a certain magic in seeing the sun slowly rolling down at about three-thirty. As I went up a hill, it kept hiding from me by putting its head down. On my mp3 player I had Chico Buarque with Milton Nascimento, The Cranberries, Public Enemy, Barbara Morgenstern (new "discovery"), Nick Cave and The Black Keys, amongst others. Lovely run, I can tell you. Have a brilliant week, you all.

    Greetings from London.

  11. Yes, beautiful description of the onset of winter in the capital. Thank you.

  12. Lovely imagery in this post! I like that skin of autumn metaphor especially. I prefer a true Maine winter with loads of snow and bright blue skies, but I’ll trade your spring for ours any year. Sade is just the right music for this post. Nice photo too.

    Thanks for your book recommendations on my post. My son has been urging me to read White Tiger too.

  13. Thanks for your comments. It's really nippy tonight.

    Greetings from London.

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