Maybe it was the many black and white photographs of London I’d seen in history books, or it could have been the brand name of my mother’s London Fog raincoat, but I grew up under the impression that London was a city perpetually covered in a dense layer of fog. I’m only a little bit embarrassed to say that I still thought this when we moved there four years ago. (I mean, if you’ve never been somewhere before, how would you know?) Before we moved, people warned us to prepare ourselves for the constant rain (semi-true, it’s overcast more than it rains, actually) and for the darkness in winter (totally true, 3pm sunsets, anyone?), but I didn’t care. I was just excited to walk through the foggy streets of my new city, taking misty, romantic-looking photographs like the ones I’d seen in my high school history books.
Fast-forward to three years later. That London fog I was looking forward to? It never happened. Like, ever. We had grey, drizzly days in spades, but almost zero fog. Why? Because those photos I’d seen of London shrouded in thick, heavy fog were most likely taken pre-1950’s when everything in London was still running on coal. (This is why reading history books is a waste of time. Read blogs instead! …kidding.) In the whole three years we lived in London, we experienced a truly thick fog like that of London’s ‘Big Smoke’ past only once. And you better believe I took advantage of it.
I woke up that Sunday morning before anyone else in the house. I was walking to the kitchen to make my tea when I realized something was off. Our flat back then faced east, which meant, unless it was a particularly dreary day or I’d decided to sleep in (yeah, right), the sunrise was always my morning tea companion in the winter. On this particular morning, not only could I not see the sunrise, but I couldn’t see anything else either. Not even the building opposite ours 50 feet away. I immediately threw a coat on over my pajama top, felt around in the dark for the jeans I’d left on the floor the night before, and grabbed my camera as I rushed out the door. I didn’t know how long it would last and if this was going to be my only chance to photograph the London fog, I wasn’t going to miss it.
I headed to the Chiswick High Road first, which, at 8am on any Sunday is subject to much lighter crowds than usual, but on this particular morning was like a ghost town. Walking through the empty streets alone, with the dense fog buffering all sound except the crunching of dry leaves beneath my feet, was so eerie and disconcerting that I decided to head somewhere I knew would feel a little more familiar in silence – Chiswick Gardens.
In my haste to leave the flat, I’d completely forgotten to leave a note explaining my disappearance and had left my phone charging by the bed. (Not to mention my house keys, too!) On my way to the park, I momentarily considered rushing back to the flat and waking Cory to tell him what I was doing, but then I figured he’d see the fog and quickly guess what I was up to. After 14 years together, we know each others’ odd habits pretty well.
Just as I’d hoped, the light coming through the fog in Chiswick Gardens was perfect. That it was November and there were still almost as many colorful leaves still precariously clinging to the tree branches as there were carpeting the ground only added to the perfection of the scenery in the park. I walked through the gardens on my usual path, admiring the effect an unusual weather condition can have on a familiar setting, making it seem like an entirely different place than the one I ran in multiple times every week. I could have stayed out much longer, but after I began seeing more people in the park, I suddenly became all too aware of the state in which I’d left the house – pajama top under my coat, dirty jeans, no socks, no make-up, and even worse, no ponytail ring to hide my not at all attractive ‘I-woke-up-like-this’ hair situation.
The fog that I thought we would only get a glimpse of before it was gone ended up lasting a full two days, wreaking all sorts of havoc with tube lines and flights at Heathrow. But hey, I got those London fog pictures I always wanted! Albeit ones which now, two years later, I am trying not to critique too harshly. I am constantly looking back and wishing I’d composed something differently or chosen a different editing style. (Never mind, don’t get me started on editing styles. I suffer from multiple-personality disorder when it comes to editing.) Anyone else do that when they look back at old photos?
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