In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candlelight.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
Spending a few days in London in January reminded me of the little ditty by Robert Louis Stevenson, and although I now have the benefit of electric light, there’s no getting away from the long, dark nights, the late rising and early setting sun — if you manage to get a glimpse of it, that is.
Living in Israel for so many years, I’d forgotten how cold and dreary London can be in the dead of winter. Of course, it compensates anyone who ventures there with a plethora of entertainments and cultural events – concerts, plays, exhibitions, etc. – but the paucity of daylight has a depressing effect on even the most cheerful of souls, which I perhaps delude myself I am. Even in the winter Jerusalem generally provides crisp, cold days (and sometimes even snow), but there is generally some blue sky to be seen to cheer one up. Maybe it’s something to do with the quality of the light in Jerusalem, which seems to bounce off the stones of the buildings and provide an aura of something that is akin to spirituality or positivity or aesthetic delight, according to the character of the beholder.
Another of London’s hazards is the inevitability of catching a cold in one or another of the many crowded spots that cannot be avoided – travelling on the underground or buses, attending a concert or play,going shopping in malls or Oxford Street – everywhere is so crowded. And although everyone is polite and someone even younger than myself almost always offers me their seat on the ‘tube,’ as it’s affectionately known, those journeys are fraught with germs and hazards of various kinds.
I don’t want anyone reading this to get the idea that I had a thoroughly miserable time in London. I did not. I enjoyed the theatre, some wonderful art exhibitions, and even a recital by a world-renowned pianist, though my enjoyment of the latter event was marred somewhat by my efforts to suppress my cough. Kind people around me offered me cough sweets even though I had come equipped with some of my own, but there’s no disguising a stubborn cough.
I was born in London, grew up there and still have many friends and acquaintances there, but I’m glad to be living in Jerusalem, where my colds and coughs occur with less painful regularity, and although some days can be cold and wet and dark you always know that the sun is lurking just around the corner, and the light blue sky will soon be enveloping the hills and cheering even the darkest mood.