London In Their Words 1


Today, as heavy grey veils of rain drape London, sinking us into a semi-darkness that acts as a reminder that we are a Northern and virtually Nordic capital, here are some views of the metropolis from residents in their own words…


I am the city whose fog will fall like a finger gently

Erasing the anger of angles, the strident indecorous gesture,

Whose dusk will come like tact, like a change in the conversation,

Violet and indigo, with strings of lemon streetlamp

Casting their pools into the pools of rain

As the notes of the piano are cast from the top-floor window

Into the square that is always Sunday afternoon.

– ASJ Tessimond


‘I went to Love’s and drank tea.I had now been some time in town without female sport. I picked up a girl in the Strand; went into a court with intention to enjoy her in armour. But she had none. I toyed with her. She wondered at my size, and said if I ever took a girl’s maidenhead I would make her squeak. I gave her a shilling and had command enough of myself to go without touching her. I afterwards trembled at the danger I had escaped. I resolved to wait cheerfully until some safe girl or was liked by some woman of fashion.’ – James Boswell, aged 23 in 1763


From the geyser ventilators

Autumn winds are blowing down

On a thousand business women

Having baths in Camden Town.

… Rest you there, poor unbeloved ones,

Lap your loneliness in heat.

All too soon the tiny breakfast,

Trolley-bus and windy street.

– John Betjeman


‘The King’s Players had a new play called All Is True, representing principal pieces of the reign of Henry VIII, which is set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage…King Henry making a masque at Cardinal Wolsey’s house, and certain chambers being shot off at his entry, some of the paper did light on the thatch, where being thought at first but an idle smoke, and their eyes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very grounds. This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabric, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw and a few forsaken cloaks. Only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broiled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit put it out with bottle ale.’

– Sir Henry Wooton witnessing the burning of the Globe Theatre in 1613.


On Waterloo Bridge, where we said our goodbyes,

The weather conditions bring tears to my eyes.

I wipe them away with a black woolly glove

And try not to notice I’ve fallen in love.

On Waterloo Bridge with the wind in my hair

I am tempted to skip. You’re a fool. I don’t care.

The head does its best but the heart is the boss –

I admit it before I am halfway across.

– Wendy Cope


‘The Wild West End was truly horrific tonight. I went to St Martin-in-the-Fields underground restaurant for a catch-up. The crowds were too much and there became a stampede into the station. The guards stopped people from going in and there was a sense of chaos as so many people desperately tried to get inside. I could not bear all these people jabbing and pushing and broke out of it and caught a bus to Warren Street.’

– Maggie Armitage, yesterday, text message.

15 comments on “London In Their Words 1”

  1. SteveB says:

    London is not ‘nearly a Nordic’ capital, it is actually far to the south of Hamburg or Berlin and not far to the north of Frankfurt, where the weather is actually pretty similar just a bit wetter…

    But loved the quotes thanks!

  2. Roger says:

    “Rest you there, poor unbeloved ones” actually. If you block-quote, always check for misprints.
    I’d heard of Tessimond, but never read him much. I thought it was a MacSpaunday, though, which is pretty close

  3. admin says:

    SteveB – In my head I meant Nordic in feel and appearance rather than geographic location; clearly that did not come across.
    Roger – Spellcheck hell. Although to be fair I was typing it longhand on my lap from a scrap of paper while waiting for a train.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Gray veils of rain describes our weather today. Many of us are grateful that the threatened freezing rain did not materialize. It is December, though, so we should remember the beautiful crisp days we actually had only a week or so ago, and consider the cold and damp as a contrast there to increase our gratitude.

  5. Peter Tromans says:

    Are Londoners and English southerners very sensitive to dark, cold and wet? London has relatively mild winters compared with capitals to the north, east until you go a good way south and many places south. In December, London is, on average, warmer and dryer than Paris and not too different from Madrid. I have spent a few days in Scandinavian capitals (and many in the Netherlands) in winter and they can redefine an Englishman’s whole concept of cold, dark, wet, and windy, though, to be fair, they sometimes manage only two out of four. At minus 20 C, it tends not to rain.

  6. Jan says:

    Weather was awful last night and this morning down this way on. Beautiful afternoon of unbroken sunshine and I’ve just come indoors after 90 minutes watching the first of the
    Geminid meteor shower.

  7. SteveB says:


  8. Helen Martin says:

    No viewing of the geminids here this year, all clouded and pouring rain. Peter, you sound just like my husband the geographer. Speaking from the Arts side, I’d say that the weather is whatever you say it is. If it’s cold, wet, and dark to you then that’s what it is. You can, of course, change it by making it so in your mind, so it is now a little cool, damp, and setting toward sundown (much more endurable.)

  9. Martin Tolley says:

    When I was a student in Dundee we put the milk in the fridge overnight to stop it freezing because it was warmer in there than in the living room of our student flat. I’m often amused when the (largely London-based) TV weather forecasts use terms like “Bitterly cold with temperatures possibly as low as minus 2 or minus 3.”

  10. Ken Mann says:

    Further to Martin’s comment, I would draw your attention to James Robertson on You Tube, reading his short piece “The News Where You Are”.

  11. Jo W says:

    Sunday afternoon- “It’s raining you know. Oh, so that’s what’s making the roads wet!” And. “You watch,it’ll go dark in a minute and we’ll have to switch the lights on.”
    Your blog brought those Galton and Simpson gems straight to mind.
    Typing while waiting for a train? You off to sunny climes, Mr. Fowler?

  12. admin says:

    Nah – buying a Christmas tree, Jo.
    Off somewhere unusual on Thursday, though – watch blog!

  13. Jo W says:

    A C*******s tree, Mr.Fowler ? Really! Such language! 😉

  14. Brooke says:

    Blog site summary of London: London is popular throughout the year as it is not dependent on pleasant weather to attract travelers.

  15. Ian Luck says:

    I rather enjoy ‘inclement’ weather. I’m fond of a big coat (the cupboard under the stairs is full of them, to the ire of my brother), and came to work tonight in a classic Donkey Jacket, with the PVC covered shoulders, as worn by the great Stan Ogden (amusingly, I believe that the plaza in front of the BBC in Salford, was, some years ago, unofficially renamed ‘Piazza Di Stan Ogden’) in ‘Coronation Street’, and bin men, who weren’t afraid of getting ‘bin juice’ on themselves. Earlier, it was hovering about zero, and I had to get catfood, so I put on a cold war era Swedish Civil Defence parka, light blue and bearing the logo on the left shoulder: ‘Civilforsvaret’. I didn’t feel the cold. At all.

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