London winter blues

My life in London is great. Really great, actually. I have a wonderful group of friends here, Al and I take awesome weekend trips, we’re surrounded by cozy pubs that serve roast beef and mulled wine, and we have the option of watching Downton Abbey in real time. What more could one want, right? Well, it turns out there is one thing one could want: sunshine. Dear me, I miss the sun. It’s one of those things where you don’t realize how important it is until you don’t have it. Sunlight: kind of key, as it turns out.

Now that we’re into the darkest part of the year in London (I hope?), I’m really starting to feel the effects of living in a gray, dark city where the sun sets at four o’clock in the afternoon (SERIOUSLY). The effects are not good. I’ve been low on energy, kind of mopey, unmotivated, and a bit stir-crazy. SAD is a real thing, you guys. I think I didn’t totally believe in it before I moved to London, but, hoo boy, it’s real. (Also, according to Wikipedia, “Around 20% of Irish people are affected by SAD, according to a survey conducted in 2007. The survey also shows women are more likely to be affected by SAD than men.” CHECK AND CHECK).

Before we came to London, people had warned me about the weather, and I had brushed them off. “London’s great,” they’d say, “except for the weather.” Pshaw, I’d think. At the time, when people said this to me, I was living in South Africa, which has fabulous weather all year ’round, and which I totally did not appreciate. What I wouldn’t give today for those clear, sunny Joburg skies! You can be depressed in South Africa for a lot of reasons, but weather ain’t one of them.

Before we got here, I thought that London would be kind of rainy and blustery, but I was pretty confident I wouldn’t mind the nasty weather because it would be “cozy.” Coziness is something I value very highly, to the point where I romanticize crappy weather because it enhances the experience of being inside and warm — kind of a “you’ll never know joy until you’ve known pain” type thing. I guess I was imagining a sort of “weather outside is frightful but the fire is so delightful” scenario in which I’d spend my afternoons in London hunkered before a roaring fire while it snowed charmingly outside my beveled glass window. This (false) idea of what London winter would be like was informed by movies (Bridget Jones, Love Actually) and little else. Guess what? The movies lied. It doesn’t even snow here! It just gets dark insanely early and the wind blows a lot. Also, we don’t even have a fireplace, so the injustices just keep on coming.

The good news is, my SAD will be cured (at least temporarily) in a little over a week when I blow this popsicle stand for San Francisco. And San Francisco in the winter is delightful. It’s chilly but not cold, and, if you’re in the right part of the city, it’s downright sunny! Even in my parents’ neighborhood, which is notorious for being foggy, it’s pretty sunny in the winter, and you get some beautiful sunsets.

San Francisco, last winter
San Francisco, last winter

Never again will I complain about San Francisco fog, by the way, because no matter how foggy it gets, at least the sun still sets at a normal time in the winter. London is just punking all of us with this four PM sunset nonsense. As I write this, it’s quarter to six, and it started getting dark two hours ago. All this is to say that I’m totally fine, and having a case of SAD is a small price to pay for living in a really cool city, but I’m learning that I need to live in a climate with sunshine, long-term. At least now I know. See you soon, San Francisco, and the sun. It’s been far too long.


Leave a Reply