Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Dark Streets of London

I have never liked London.

There is a pervasive 'darkness' about it for me - 'dark' in a moral or metaphysical sense, as in Blake's "dark Satanic mills"; something so soul-sappingly oppressive that even the brightest weather cannot pierce my inner gloom.

And we haven't had much bright weather these last few days. It's been damp and grey. My memories of London in Autumn and Winter, and much of the Spring, are that it's always damp and grey.

And the wind has more knives in it than in any other place I've been. Hell, I've survived a winter in Toronto, and the wind can be pretty cruel there. I've been in places where the temperature regularly gets down to -20 or -30 C. London, rarely falling below freezing, always seems much worse somehow. The wind and the damp collaborate, insinuating the chill deep down into your bones until you feel you could never get warm again, even on the sunniest beach in The Maldives.

I have a particularly acute experience of this because most of the time I've spent in London, as a law student and later, I've been pretty near penniless, and have thus had to fill my time by wandering the streets for hours on end, gazing forlornly into shop windows and reading restaurant menus for sustenance. During such blank and cheerless days, I was often reminded of one of my favourite Pogues' songs, 'The Dark Streets of London', from their debut album 'Red Roses For Me' (more than twenty years after I first fell in love with it, this is still the album most likely to reduce me to floods of inexplicable tears):

Now the Winter comes down
I can't stand the chill
That comes to the streets around Christmas time
I'm buggered to damnation
And I haven't got a penny
To wander the dark streets of London

All of those memories come washing over me as I walk the streets now. I haven't been so depressed in years. I am desperate to get back 'home'.


Anonymous said...

sounds like a severe case of 'blue funk' (see

Froog said...

Hmm, that's quite a good blog. Do you know her?

I don't really approve of confusing the word 'funk' with 'depression' - they may often be interrelated concepts, but they're very different.

And with me, I don't find that it particularly leads to apathy or inertia. It just makes me less sociable (a conscious choice, a kindness to my friends, because I know I am not very good company when I am in this sort of mood); and I mostly go out to spend time with other people.... so, when I'm depressed, I don't go out so much.

Anonymous said...

indeed, quite a good blog. and yes, sort of... a long time fan/commenter, at the very least.

reserving comments on funk vs depression for another time. Either way, hope you're rid of it soon and have a good trip home.

Anonymous said...

I've found, in Canada anyway, that the worst winters are typically in places that are on the ocean, particularly the Atlantic, pretty much irrespective of the actual temperature. In and around Sydney, NS, where I was born, the wind off the water is like a scalpel, peeling away flesh and exposing bone, even though it might only be -15 or so. I don't know what the wind off the Thames is like, but I imagine it's similar.

Froog said...

Got to admire those hardy Canadians, the way they can say "ONLY -15" oh so casually!