Day 5 of 80 — Rain

Around London in 80 days

In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.

And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.

Day 5 : Rain

London is a grey city, known for its cold temperatures, its darkness and its rain.

I feel it this week more than ever. The rain hasn’t stopped for days ; it has taken over the streets, flooded the park, and even found its way to my room, its slow, persistent drips a constant reminder of the grim outside world.

I think we actually have as much rain in Brussels ; but Londoners seem to take more pride in it. It truly seems to be part of the British identity (Supertramp singer Roger Hodgson missed it so much that he wrote a song about it whilst living in California).

In fact, Brits take it so seriously that they have specialised umbrella shops. One, in particular, has always piqued my interest : an old-fashioned, very serious-looking umbrella shop in central London, very close to the British Museum.

It’s a family shop : James Smith & Sons, in London since 1830. As old as Belgium itself ! Very professional, they offer to repair the umbrellas they have made when necessary and sell related objects such as walking sticks or umbrella cases as well as other accessories for the perfect Englishman : shoehorns, cufflinks and of course, hip flasks.

They also sell a book about the study of umbrellas, or Brolliology. Yes, a whole book about the history of the umbrella in life & literature which genuinely sounds like an interesting read !

James Smith & Sons‘s dedicated approach to rain cheers me up. Maybe this rainy week isn’t so bad after all ; rain can be romantic* at times, fun** at others… and as I regularly remind my tourists, it is an integral part of the London experience !

*As Georges Brassens proved in Parapluie
**As Gene Kelly showed us all in Singing In The Rain

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