Pea soupers

I was riding into work on the bus yesterday and there was what I characterize as “a bit of a mist.”

Someone asked me if the fog reminded me of a London pea soup fog. No, it didn’t. I’m not (quite) old enough to remember the last days of the London pea soup fogs, the thick, yellowish-green killer fogs where you could only see a yard or so ahead. (Hint: want to kill off a character? Easy. Very busy streets and poor visibility. I think Galsworthy killed someone off in the Forsyte Saga like that.)

London got a wake up call in 1952, when thousands of people died in four days from what is now regarded as one of the deadliest environmental disasters of modern times. You can read and hear about it from a report NPR made on the fiftieth anniversary. The Clean Air Act of 1956, which banned the use of coal in the city, began the cleanup.

So what caused the London fogs? The River Thames, the climate, and coal. In 1800, London, with its population of one million, was the largest city in the world; and every household burned coal for heating and cooking. By the Victorian era the city had grown even bigger and dirtier:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –

No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,

No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –


Thomas Hood, November (1844)

So how is your November? Do you feel the onset of winter yet and what are you doing to counteract cold weather and short daylight hours?

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Susan Wilbanks
15 years ago

Leaving work in twilight or even dark is depressing (it’s fully dark by 5:15 or so in Seattle now), but I find November easier to cope with than February or March. In November and December you have the build-up to the holidays to make the darkness feel festive, and January has the new year and a certain energy of new beginnings. February and March are just dark, gray, and dreary.

(Not that February and March are all bad. Once pitchers and catchers report and we start working on Easter music at choir practice, light and festivity begin to creep back in.)

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
15 years ago

So far in New York the weather has fluctuated from unseasonably warm to frigid. At least it isn’t snowing! I agree with Susan that the build up to the holidays with all the festive decorations in the store windows somehow makes it seem less gloomy and depressing. I always love either a cup of hot cider or an Irish coffee and a good book to see me through the dark days of winter. Oh and crap TV. Although January will bring the PBS Jane Austen season where Andrew Davies will give us all those scenes from the novels that Jane Austen apparently forgot to write.

Megan Frampton
15 years ago

I like November and December; it’s February and March that bums me out.

It’s dark here early, yeah, but I’ve got hot cider, root vegetables, books, natch, and cute sweaters to keep me strong.

Diane Gaston
15 years ago

Here in Northern VA, March is often pretty much okay, with hints of April and April is beautiful here.
February has the advantage of President’s Day…and it’s short.

Mostly, though, I just hate winter.

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Given that it’s always rainy these days in Seattle, the day is like twilight with a thickly leaden sky and wet stuff drip-drip-driping down. By December, darkness comes to the Eastside mountains by 4 o’clock. Today, I simply cannot say anything nice about the world outside my windows.

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

Fall is my favorite time of year, with apple cider and flannel pajamas, lighting a fire in the fireplace. It feels so nice and cozy, the perfect time to curl up with a book (or, like Elizabeth said, crap TV, LOL. Dancing With the Stars, Pushing Daisies, and Ugly Betty, yay!). But after the holidays comes WINTER and I hate that.

Cara King
15 years ago

Oh, Amanda, I’m another Pushing Daisies fan! Ned and Chuck are so cute. And the whole thing is so fun, and so different…

As for weather, we’re having the usual bizarro (i.e. unusual) Southern California weather here. It was steadily getting colder and rainier, but now it’s all warm and sunny. A plot so we never know what clothes to wear! 🙂


15 years ago

It is pitch dark by 5pm here in my neck of the woods. I don’t mind that so much because it means the end of soccer practice and one less place to pick up and drop off the cherubs.

It’s finally gotten cold here. All this warm as Florida weather in early November is, well, just not right! I love the crispness of Fall and, frankly, all those leaves folks from the city to see are have only started to turn a couple of weeks ago! I miss those people driving 25 miles an hour when I have to get to soccer practice!

And don’t get me started on our Searing Springtime!

Bemoaning the loss of the seasons!

15 years ago

I think fall is my favorite time of year no matter where I have lived. Of course in the South, fall is a relative term. Yesterday it was humid and in the 80’s. Last night we had rain, today was 65 and windy and now it is in the low 30’s. I live in a trailer, but it has a great fire place in the corner of the livingroom with a blower on it. If there is a fire in the fireplace I never have to wonder where the two dogs and three cats are. They are jockeying for position on the hearth rug. I love a foggy morning for a morning walk or ride (until 4 years ago I owned a horse and we spend every morning together on the dirt roads around here. After Taz died – aged 24 – I didn’t have the heart to get another horse.)

15 years ago

I miss the turning of the leaves sometimes, having grown up in the Northeast and now living in Southern California. I mean, it was 80 degrees today! That just makes no sense. When we lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for a few years, it was nice to see the autumn colors again.

Don’t really miss winter, though–I’d rather be hot than cold. The holidays are a little weird without even a suspicion of a chance of a possibility of snow, but they are still quite jolly.

The story about the London pea soup fogs reminded me of a photo I once saw when we were living in Pittsbugh: it was a deserted street corner in downtown Pittsburgh, pitch black except for the glowing of the street lamp. The caption explained that the picture had been taken at noon. That was Pittsburgh back when the steel industry was still going strong…


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