There’s no doubt about it. London winters are dismal. The temperatures drop to numbers that can be counted on a few fingers. The days are few brief hours of gloomy grey light and night falls halfway through the afternoon. Yet, (at least for those who haven’t suffered through too many of them) winter is one of the city’s brightest and most cheerful seasons.
In late November or early December, borough by borough and with great celebration, the Christmas lights are turned on. So, for winter’s most dismal weeks, when the daylight disappears at 3.30pm, the dark streets are bright with flashing neon.
Shop windows are full of cheery fireside scenes, rich and colourful Christmas fare or warm, bright winter clothes.
Christmas villages spring up; huddles of brightly lit miniature chalets selling hot chocolate, mulled wine, mince pies and sweets, woolly hats and gloves and a thousand and one sparkling, glittering little knick-knacks.
The ice rinks open. Alongside tents are set up with bars selling mulled wine and hot chocolate. The skaters come out – the experts and the amateurs, the school kids and the after-workers – doing or just watching it’s fun and it’s hilarious.