Friday, August 27, 2010
It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heavy and dark. Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was blinking, wheezing, and choking; inanimate London was a sooty spectre, divided in purpose between being visible and invisible, and so being wholly neither.
I didn't have the heart to tell her London is no more foggy than LA these days. But it's strange how the idea of London fog has seeped into the US consciousness. Their spiffiest raincoat is called London Fog, after all. One wag over here said it was like Indians paying homage to the Old Country with a very fine brand of sari called Unreliable Plumbing System. Maybe it was all those Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies where the fog swirled and curled under gaslit streetlamps, or the works of Charles Dickens, from which the quote above comes.
The last great pea-souper was in December 1952, lasting four days, from which all of these remarkable photographs come. It brought the city to the proverbial standstill, even working its way inside. A performance of La Traviata at Sadler's Wells was cancelled because of the audience's incessant coughing. Film theatres closed for the same reason and because no one could see the screen. Dog racing at White City was postponed because the dogs couldn't see the mechanical hare. It got so bad that people couldn't see their own feet, and stumbled around lost, the absence of any kind of visible landmark as a guide rendering them for all purposes blind. The sulphur stink that made its way into every house. It would make a fabulous backdrop to a crime novel (and who knows, it might...)
Dan - Friday
at 3:59 AM