After a decade of Brisbane’s year round comfortable climate, I was looking forward to watching the seasons change and London didn’t disappoint.
The first sign of spring was the daffodils sprouting in the parks and churchyards, the riot of intense yellow trumpets silently heralding the end of winter. Great clouds of pollen floated through the air like a shifting yellow fog. Nato suffered from allergies for the first time ever, exacerbated by the pollen drifting in through the open windows at his work and settling in a thick coat on everything in his office. Cold Chisel sang that the flame trees will blind the weary driver, but the London planetrees blind and choke Londoners with the fine hairs they disperse into the air.
In summer, constant air traffic crisscrossed the sky with a web of contrails. London experienced ‘heatwaves’, defined as greater than 30°C during the day and greater than 15°C at night. HA! At 16°C I still snuggled under a doona (which are referred to as duvets, pronounced doo-vays) to sleep. It was hot during the day though and Nato struggled with the heat in his non-air-conditioned office. The buildings in London were designed to keep heat in, not let it out, and the daytime heat was felt by everyone, as evidenced by pedestal fans selling out across the city.
Nato was ridiculed for wearing sunglasses on his walk to work as the Londoners seem to only dust them off for summer holidays and hangovers. However, the slightest rise in temperature or sprinkling of sunlight would see the Londoners out in droves. The parks quickly became packed with people lying around on beach towels, the men with their shirts off and the women hiking up their skirts to reveal expanses of pasty white flesh. Perhaps Pimm’s was developed to help Londoners cope with this sight. Pimm’s is an alcoholic gin-based spirit that is mixed with lemonade and generous portions of chopped mint, strawberries, lemon and cucumber to make a refreshing and dangerously drinkable fruit punch. I first tried a premixed can of Pimm’s and lemonade and wondered what all the fuss was about. One fruit-filled glass of Pimm’s at a pub later and I was hooked. I’m amazed Pimm’s hasn’t taken off in Australia; it would be perfect at a summer BBQ.
Autumn blew into London, teasing buttery yellow leaves from the trees and sending them skittering along the paths and roads. Every time I left the house I’d be greeted by a school of leaves dancing up the path towards me. The leaves finally settled on the ground making it look to me like giant boxes of cornflakes had been spilt all over London. Showers blew through turning the leaves into a slimy brown mush that made footpaths dangerously slippery, particularly after dark. The days grew shorter and shorter, soon the alarm was waking us early enough to see the sunrise and we’d see the sunset on our way home from work. Once the sun started setting before we left work, we knew winter was on the way.
Our first winter saw record snowfall in London. Snow fell in late October, which hadn’t happened for 74 years. This and any subsequent snowfall sent the Australians and New Zealanders rushing out into the streets to play while our English colleagues looked on bemused.
In February, London had the heaviest snowfall for 18 years which brought the city to a standstill. Nato and I made snow angels on the footpath and a snowman in the garden. We helped a stranger push his car out of the snow and even had a brief snowball fight. The roads and footpaths became treacherously icy. Whilst crossing the road in front of a black London cab my boots lost grip and I did a crazy cartoon-like dance, running on the spot with my handbag swinging about wildly at the end of my arm as I tried to use it as a counterweight. I managed not to fall, regained my balance and finished crossing the road, then turned back to see the cab driver laughing so hard he was having trouble driving off.
Despite the early and heavy snowfall, a white Christmas eluded us, I knew it was unlikely but gave up all hope when I saw this quantified by bookmakers who offered odds of a white Christmas of 7:1 and odds of no white Christmas of 1:16. If you are considering placing a bet this Christmas, a Christmas is considered ‘white’ if a single snow flake is observed falling onto the roof of the London Weather Centre in the twenty-four hours of 25th December. Even though there doesn’t need to be a decent quantity of snow, there are usually very few takers.