Monday, December 17, 2018

Winter in London

Saturday was the first day this year that I felt chilly enough that I consider it to be winter here. Up to this point, temperatures have been fairly mild. I don't expect it to freeze - that's just not London's thing most of the time - but I expect to not be sweating inside my coat. I grew up where winters get very cold, so to me London's usual winter temperature range feels manageable. I try to refrain from complaining about the weather until late March, when I feel it is officially acceptable to be sick of using the radiators and getting cold at bus stops.

But I will admit that the kind of cold that we experience here is different, and so I won't begrudge anyone else their bit of grousing about it. It's a damp cold. It slips under the door of these old Victorian houses and stays awhile. And it rains. A lot. Most of the year, I dry my clothes outdoors. That doesn't work in the winter. Even when it is not raining, there is so little daylight that nothing will dry during the sunny hours. My theory is that this is the real reason that most houses have radiators; people need a place to dry their clothes.

The other problem with rain is that you cannot stay out in it nearly as long as you can in the snow, unless you've outfitted yourself with waterproof trousers in addition to a raincoat and wellies. I have a lightweight, waterproof jacket that is big enough to fit over my winter coat and goes nearly to my knees, but anything below it eventually gets fully soaked. The only pleasant thing about that particular experience is getting home and getting into dry things and having a cup of tea on the sofa while I recover.

But still, I can't complain about the winter. It really isn't that bad. I just have to manage it. There's been a bit of a learning curve, but this is our fifth winter here, and I think I've got it mostly sussed. It's important to check the weather app before leaving the house and see if and when the rain will be arriving for the day. Sometimes it comes by surprise, so tucking my rain jacket into my bag for a day out is never a bad idea. An extra pair of gloves is helpful. For a mist or drizzle, my winter coat and hat will keep me dry enough to run my Saturday errands, but if I'm meant to be outdoors for thirty minutes or more, that won't do.

An umbrella is handy only in certain situations, and I mostly don't like to mess with it, so it's better to bring the rain jacket if I only want to carry one thing. In fact, I'm not a big fan of the umbrella overall; it's so little protection with so many possibilities for things to go a bit wrong. More often than not, I leave it at home. A water resistant bag has been incredibly helpful - I have two Orla Kiely laminated bags (one backpack and one messenger) that mostly keep out the water. I'm mindful not to put my phone too near the zip closure, and I've never had a problem, even when caught briefly in a downpour. But mostly the smartest thing is to try to stay out of the heaviest rain. It is rare that a downpour lasts for more than ten minutes.

It is also rare that winter lasts longer than I can bear. Not being a fan of summer, I am happy to make these adjustments in order to be comfortable when I am out and about in a season that doesn't leave me sweaty and unable to function normally. One can always add more layers. Or, just stay home and have a cup of tea.

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