London in that week before the clocks go back is a strange place. You wake in darkness, walk to work as the sun… doesn’t exactly rise, merely as the grey cloud in the sky shifts from being sodium-black to blue-grey, so that by the time daylight arrives properly the overall effect appears strange, diffuse. The same sense occurs in the evening as, glancing out of the window, you are astonished to discover that the day went, though god knows you didn’t spot it departing.
It rains a lot at this time of year, and on busy streets the result is to create a kind of tunnel, as umbrellas go up to form a jostling ceiling overhead. Socks become soaked through, though you can’t quite work out how, and as you walk there’s a chill in the extremities that’s possibly the onset of numbness, possibly just plain, tingly cold. Some trees are still green, but the pavement is increasingly full of yellow squelchy leaves and, at the moment, the air is thick with mist. In many ways, the mist is more pervasive than the rain, as, without actually seeming to be wet, it soaks the furthest nooks and crannies, drenching the entire city without seeming to drench. Colours seem stronger to me when it’s misty, as whole buildings vanish into greyness leaving only white fluorescent windows, blue LED spikes, floating tungsten blobs, swirling headlights and yellow cones of streetlamp which seem to define stiff shapes in the air. Distant objects become suddenly mysterious, and even a little oppressive. The blinking red light on top of a crane seems to flash from empty air; distant tower blocks are smudges of little squares of light set in a dark background on darkness. Looking through the fence into a public park, the grass is black, except for a single strip of white light marking out a path along which silhouettes move.
One of the best things about this time of the year, is that for a while the day is dark enough, early enough, that all the lights go on in the houses and offices while there’s still interesting activity occurring. Walking down a street at 5 p.m., you can see little squares of life illuminated, as it seems, like a TV picture for your entertainment. However, a well known London truth is also this; that when it’s cold, and dark, and raining, you can usually be sure that the bus which just pulled away from the bus stop, was the one you really wanted to catch.