Friday, 6 November 2009

A city for all seasons

London doesn't do seasons the same as other places. In fact some seasons, i.e. autumn and spring, it doesn't seem to do at all. For most of the year London languishes in a soggy, temperate, sometimes surprisingly gusty, mono-climate. It could be October or it could be June, and you'd never know unless you consulted a calendar. Approximately two to three weeks, usually heralded by the start of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, are uncomfortably hot, signalling, and sometimes completely comprising, summer. A further unexpected week of snow or disappointing slush towards the end of January acts as winter. Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' would've been a whole lot different - and a whole lot shorter - if he'd composed them here in London.

Overnight the trees which line our streets have gone bald. In a matter of hours, leaves have chameleoned from bright green to yellow to orange and hurled themselves from their safe branches under the wheels of the city traffic; now they lie in the soggy gutters all the same shade of water-logged-mulch brown. A synchronised shift from summer to winter, without the tedious in-between of autumn.

On 3rd November this year, winter, nay Christmas, officially began in London. Christmas lights already strung high above Oxford Street and Regent Street for the past couple of weeks were officially turned on today by Colin Firth. Yep, that's right, Mr Darcy flipped the switch of the tackiest festive decorations our city centre has witnessed in some time; all tied in with his latest film, "A Christmas Carol" - Oxford Street, you sell-out! (And don't even get me started on you, Colin...). I love Regent Street's tasteful stars which have returned from last year, but the illuminated Jim Carreys atop the film's promotional title plug are rather commercial.

(Regent Street and its recently illuminated Christmas lights, apologies for the slight blur - that's the rain, so hard it looks like seasonal snow is falling from the sky.)

Shop windows (usually reliable seasonal barometers) are now all a-twinkle with fairy-lights and shiny baubles. All the manekins are wrapped up warm in winter coats and heavy knitwear, against freak in-store snow flurries. Starbucks have even introduced their festive red coffee cups, visible in the hands of fraught-looking commuters, who thought they had another few weeks before they had to start thinking about present-buying and turkey-stuffing but have been recently informed otherwise. Sod Halloween, that's old news. Bonfire Night? Pah! Christmas is coming, and we only have 7 weeks to prepare for it. You'd better get yourself down to Selfridges, where its Christmas Shop has been open since early August. Yep, when we were all still vainly waiting for British summertime to shuffle along they were already decking the halls down the other end of Oxford Street.

No wonder our poor city's seasons are so confused, retailers and councils are stretching holidays to suit their stock and schedules, regardless of calendar dates or what the rest of the country is doing. So, from London to the rest of the world, "Happy Holidays, everyone!". (Boy, am I going to be bored of Christmas by the time it finally arrives...)


  1. Love the idea of shop window as seasonal barometers, you're spot on. Lord Byron wrote "The English winter ending in July, to recommence in August."


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