I found this entry the other day that for some reason I hadn’t posted. So even though I’m not living in London, it still rings true!
Someone asked me the other day which was my favourite season and I couldn’t decide on an answer. Later, on the bus going home, I recognised that one of the reasons I love living in London is the seasons, and how definitive, different each is! I grew up in the temperate climate of South Australia. We recognise the seasons and there are differences between them – summers dry and hot; winters mild – but we do not have the same variances and visible changes that are so evident here. Living here the weather and seasons finally match the descriptions from all the books that I read as a child!
My first trip to London, 21 years ago, was during winter. I remember walking through Kensington Gardens, trying to keep warm – I had just spent a month in Zimbabwe so wasn’t very prepared! It was an overcast and misty day – the trees all bare, the grass very green – and there were squirrels! Oh, the delight I took in the squirrels scrambling from tree to tree, scavenging along the way. This was all new to me! Adelaide winters are comparatively mild, and in the middle of the year – gum trees don’t lose their leaves in the same way, and there certainly aren’t squirrels along the banks of the River Torrens!
Even in the midst of a big city like London, there is always evidence of the seasons and the approaching changes. Many of my years living in London have been within walking distance of Kensington Gardens. The Gardens truly reflect the seasons and the lives of those within its reach.
Spring comes so quickly! Walking through the Gardens, the beds are just dirt, the trees still bare, the mornings chilly. But as the days lengthen, there is a sudden burst of warmth, and the first buds appear and shoots grow inches overnight! It all happens so quickly and it really does seem as if everyone and everything is coming out of hibernation. People begin to shed their winter layers; cafes and restaurants set up tables and chairs outside in hope; the birds begin their morning songs again; and the air is brighter – and even smells fresher.
Summer seems to follow soon on its heels. Living this far north, sunset is around 10, and it is getting light before 4 in the morning. Those long evenings make summer seem endless! Deck chairs surround the Round Pond as people relish the sun. Tourists fill the gardens, office workers take their lunches outside, nannies arrange outdoor excursions for their young charges. I have seen business men sunbathing in their shorts and vests, suits and shirts folded neatly nearby! London is surprisingly humid during summer, the shade of the many trees in the Gardens therefore a welcome respite. The Gardens are always full – where does everyone comes from?
Autumn is one of my favourite times. I love the changing leaves, their vibrant colours on the trees and nearby ground. The mornings are frosty, the days getting shorter. The Gardens return to being a place of retreat for those living nearby, as the tourists thin out. People resist pulling out the winter clothes for as long as possible! I love getting up and going for a walk on these autumnal mornings – the views change each day as the leaves progress through their range of tones. Some leaves so small and red, others bigger than a dinner plate tinged with yellow and orange.
And then there is winter. And in London it is often grey and dull – compounded by the fact that the days are short. When I first started teaching here 16 years ago, I couldn’t get over how I would be getting to school at 8 in the morning in the dark, and then leaving at 4 in the afternoon, when it was already dark again. Mornings in the Gardens are the domain of those with their Burberry coats and Hunter wellies walking dogs. The trees are bare, and look ghostly through the fog and mist. Bulbs are planted but won’t make an appearance until the ground warms up again. Last year I was lucky to see snow in the Gardens several times and the Round Pond even froze over! It is a time for scarves (and oh! I have so many), coats, hats and gloves, with thick woolly tights and boots! Here, finally, the winter scenes match the Christmas cards that we send!
London’s weather is often criticised. But for me, it is one of the reasons why I chose to live here. I truly had winter and summer wardrobes, a range of coats for different times of the year, and I survived the weather living in a little flat that was once a maid’s room in the roofline of a Victorian terrace flat without air conditioning or proper central heating!