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  • Writer's pictureJohn Dolan

No Sun, No Smiles, November

Updated: Jul 5, 2019

No sun, no smiles, November.

It’s either November in London or I’m on the abandoned set of ‘The Walking Dead’.

Most people I encounter look so damn miserable. However, being a Brit, I understand the cause. It is on account of The Weather.

The Weather is the eponymous British topic. People may be killing each other in Syria, we may be on a countdown to Armageddon, but The Weather will always take top billing. It is the reason why British marriages are unhappy, why we lost the Empire and why our teenage children are a nightmare. We forget that without The Weather the Spanish Armada would probably have succeeded in its aim and the British Isles would now be living on a staple diet of paella and sangria.

Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad now I come to think of it.

Well, London hasn’t really changed that much since my last visit here in 1666 when the bubonic plague victims were piled high in the streets. True, there weren’t any Starbucks outlets in those days, but there were people emptying chamber-pots out of upstairs windows which, metaphorically speaking, is the modern equivalent.

Sometimes it’s tough being an immortal. You always seem to remember the bad times.


The Christmas bulbs are all a-twinkling along Oxford Street. Bizarrely, there are huge golden MARMITE advertisements strung across the thoroughfare (as if life wasn’t bad enough). Regents Street is hung with the Twelve Days of Christmas lights, and there are a few True Loves wandering its length gazing moodily into each other’s eyes. Just wait until the smelly nappies arrive, that’s all I can say.

The statue of Eros is surrounded by some as-yet-to-be-determined hoardings.

Soho is as depressing as ever.

Christmas? Bah, humbug.

(I think Scrooge got a bad press. And I always had the desire to kick away Tiny Tim’s crutches. He used to irritate the crap out of me)

Nevertheless the posh shops still have tourists in them. They look Russian to me. After squeezing the economic life out of American visitors for the last few decades, we are now hosting Russians. They promise to be a tougher proposition. Some of them may even carry guns. And after a lifetime of Siberian winters I don’t suppose they are going to be intimidated by The Weather. They’re not Spanish after all.

Yet in spite of my best efforts at grumpiness, the architecture of the old Capital still exercises a pull; still brings an ache to the heart. I have the feeling that at some level this is still “home” despite my terrestrial wanderings and my fondness for the warmth and exoticism of South East Asia.

I stand upon Westminster Bridge. It is dark. A chilled memory of history climbs noiselessly over the parapet and fixes itself in my mind; inculcates itself beneath my protective layers. Below me, the Thames flows sluggishly and reluctantly towards the sea.

Perhaps Wordsworth was right. Perhaps Earth may not have anything to show more fair.

I turn away from the river and look up at a sky heavy with cloud.

It is time to leave.

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