Dark Mornings and Grey, Rainy Days

This is, apparently, one of the most depressing times of the year for British folk. The sparkling fairy lights of Christmas are long gone, but the winter drags on – bitingly cold and remorselessly damp. The mornings are dark and, throughout the grey days, the evenings loiter just beyond the horizon, bringing back the night-time before the day has even had a chance to brush its teeth and put its socks on.

Where so many expats come to avoid 'the weather'.

Where so many expats come to avoid ‘the weather’.

‘The weather’ seems to be the main reason there are so many of us Brits here in the UAE (240,000 and counting…). Talk to any British expatriate and I guarantee ‘the weather’ will be in their top five reasons for leaving the UK. In fact, I’d wager it would be in the top three for most people. When friends out here are considering returning home, ‘the weather’ seems to be the thing they dread most (swiftly followed by taxation, pot holes and British politicians). We had one grey, rainy day here in Dubai last week. One day. A colleague told me it had left him feeling deeply depressed. I think he might possibly be the most sensitive sufferer of Seasonally Affected Disorder on the entire planet.

Wall in Wales

This wall is green and damp. Perhaps I could live here.

And I just don’t get it. As any regular Homesick and Heatstruck reader will know, I’m very fond of green things (You know – trees and plants and the like, not Kermit the Frog. Although I am also very fond of Kermit the Frog…) and without rain there are no green things. I’d much rather live somewhere green and damp than somewhere arid and lifeless.

I know how bloody miserable it gets – I used to find the cold, dark winter mornings just as terrible as everyone else does, particularly when you have to force yourself out of your warm bed, scrape the ice off your windscreen and go to work. But, like many other things that four-and-a-half-years in Dubai has made me appreciate about home, ‘the weather’ is now right up there at the top of the list of things I love. Any British weather at all – grey weather, chilly weather, blustery weather, drizzling weather, sideways-rain weather… It’s not just that I like talking about it (which I do – see my post Talk About The Weather), it’s that it does stuff. No matter how grim the British weather may feel, it’s still weather: it’s seasonal; it changes.

Dubai beach

Dubai beach on a grey, rainy day. Not a sunbather in sight – blissful!

I remember very well how the long, dark winter can grind down the spirits, but, for me (and I appreciate I may be alone in this), there’s something about relentless sunshine that’s equally dispiriting. It’s a bit like that CIA sleep deprivation technique of 24-hour blindingly bright neon lights… So much sunshine makes my head ache – it’s against nature. When it rained the other day and everyone here was panicking about flooding and cancelled barbecues, I put my boots on and went for a walk on the beach. It was BRILLIANT – and really rather pretty – in a brooding, heathery skies sort of way. Oh, how I long for a frozen windscreen.

I went home to the UK for ten days in December – my first British Christmas since 2010 – and I saw winter in a whole new way. Winter is nature’s chance to rest, and if you too can find an opportunity to do so, it suddenly all makes sense. The darkness allows you to simply stop, to be cosy and sleep and recharge the old batteries. It gives us permission to hibernate.

And it can be beautiful too. There’s something uniquely lovely about bare, brown fields beneath a water-coloured, wintery sun. It’s a different sort of beauty from the bright, brassy tones of summer; it’s gentle and strange and humble. The stillness of winter is lovely too (when it’s not blowing a mighty gale of course) – the quiet, barely-breathing stillness of grey branches against grey skies.

Wintery lake.

Wintery lake.

Winter fields in Kent on Christmas morning.

Winter fields in Kent on Christmas morning.

Unlike the Middle Eastern Summer Heat (for which there really is no answer but to stay inside with the air conditioning on full whack), the British Winter Cold is bearable. Even on the chilliest days you can still get outside – put on your thermals, wear some thick gloves and a woolly hat – and walk briskly until the cold air makes your cheeks go pink.  As Billy Connolly once said, ‘Get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.’ And you can always come home to the central heating and a nice cup of tea.

Icy puddle in the morning sun.

Icy puddle in the morning sun.

It’s amazing how many British beauty spots are deserted at this time of year. When I was at home in December, the cold was an incentive for me to get outside rather than a deterrent. I went on some wonderful walks with my family. I saw the morning sun shining on frozen puddles and frosted berries; I saw kingfishers darting amongst the reeds and perched on bare branches, watching the cold water of the lake; I saw seal pups playing in the grey waves of the Swale.

It’s winter here in Dubai too, of course. For the next few months it will be warm rather than boiling hot, and British tourists will be flocking here to escape ‘the weather’ and soak up their bit of winter sun. Sorry tourists, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for a few more grey, rainy days before this winter is out…

Winter sunshine.

Winter sunshine.

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49 Comments

  1. I was in the UK this Christmas as well, but I spent the time cleaning and decorating my house after the muckers that had rented it had moved out.

    I am glad Mrs S didn’t see the house after they had trashed it.

    • I hope you had a festive one nonetheless! What’s the weather like in Italy at this time of year?

      • Freezing, we have a little snow on the ground. It is around 1°c in the morning so pretty mild. The year before we had -20°

      • Blimey! Time for the thermal long-johns then…

  2. Rick

    That’s lovely; the imagery and use of words in the first paragraph alone, which contains beauty and humour, paint the most vivid of pictures. Wonderful. More please.

  3. So lovely to hear from you again! It’s very frosty here in Gloucestershire, but the sun is shining and I am looking forward to bundling up and getting out there soon. This post has helped me to properly appreciate a sunny, frosty morning. Thank you.

  4. Lovely to hear from you again and with such a super post. Costa Rica weather suits me well…..a nice long rainy season then the summer which is just long enough yo make you delighted when the rain starts up again…and it is warm (where we live) not hot!

    • That sounds lovely. We were in Sri Lanka recently and I really liked the climate there too – warm and sunny with lots of rain – SO green! It’s good to be blogging again 🙂

      • My husband loved Sri Lanka when he was there years ago…but refuses to visit, let alone live there, in view of the discrimination – to use an anodine word – against the Tamils.

      • I know – the ‘discrimination’ has indeed been awful and there has been terrible violence as a consequence, but it is all a lot calmer now. And it’s SUCH a beautiful country.

  5. You have given me a different perspective on the British winter. Instead of enduring it until the warmer, sunny (hopefully) spring and summer arrive, I will try and appreciate it more! I hadn’t really thought about in the way that you describe – I’ve been mainly in the camp of hating it (apart from beautiful crisp frosty blue-sky days) and wishing I could escape it. 🙂

  6. I agree 100%! The weather in Dubai drove me crazy and I found the constant bright sun really oppressive. One thing I’ve noticed since moving back to Texas is how much I missed clouds. Dubai seems to have either that dark blue, opaque sky or the foggy/hazy sky – either way – pretty 1 dimensional. I do have to say though – I think the UK would be hard for me in winter – it gets dark so early! And with the cold/rain – I’d find it hard to stay motivated about venturing out. 🙂

    • Clouds are lovely. I do like a nice cloud. Yes – the short, dark days do get a lot of people down in the UK – it’s tough when you go to work in the dark and come home again in the dark…

  7. Love this…..I too, enjoyed the “wintery” rainy days in Dubai last week. Took video’s of the real real rain and sent them round the world so people could see that it does actually rain properly in the desert as opposed to the mostly dirty wet dust falling from the sky.

    • It was great wasn’t it! Had a lovely evening walk into Jumeirah today – really loving this cool breeze! 🙂

    • And wearing socks and closed shoes and a warm wooly jersey (jumper) and hot coco and thick soup……ahhhh!

      • The socks have felt like a real treat! 😀

      • Lol, we could ramble on….probably longer than the cool weather will last. Just have to enjoy every bit we get.

      • Absolutely! x

  8. I love the description of nature needing a break during winter. It makes me feel slightly less angry about all the snow we have in Northern Ontario. 🙂

    • Hi PP – hope the snow isn’t too relentless! 🙂

      • Thankfully it has eased up a bit. Nice to see you back again. Haven’t seen you in a while.

      • I’ve been having a bit of a blogging break to write other stuff. Nice to be back though! – Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  9. Hey! Thought you’d disappeared for good – great to have you back 🙂 And with such a beautiful post – you make winter sound so romantic 🙂 Going to throw on some thermals and get out there 🙂
    PS. I moved to Germany since you last posted, in case you’re wondering about the change in username!

    • I AM back – hurrah! Looking forward to reading all about your experiences in Germany! x

      • There have been a lot of them 🙂

  10. I came to dread English winters and, by the time I left London, the only thing I was happy to leave behind was the weather. Now, after 20 years in California, I get excited for any rainy or foggy day we get and I find myself craving winter. Never quite happy with what I got.

    • It’s the perennial grass-is-greener problem, isn’t it. Let’s try to make the most of where we are now 🙂

  11. RuchikaBajoria

    I seem to be feeling the exact opposite of how you feel. I come from the deserts of India, so I’m more used to the enervating heat [it’s not just you, even natives feel that way]. I’ve been in the UK for a couple of years now and I don’t understand how you say the weather ! It doesn’t!! It goes from less rain to more rain to thunderstorms and then biting cold [with rain]. I’ve rarely had a sunny day when it hasn’t rained!

    It was lovely to read your post because it put things in perspective. 🙂

    And yes, we do love long conversations on the weather. I guess living here makes everyone master the skill of intelligent weather conversation. [Such a cliché 😉 ]

    • Looks like you’re in the reverse situation then… It’s all about ‘home’ isn’t it, really – and what we feel we need to be most ourselves. Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  12. She’s back!!! (MM jumps around kitchen slopping tea everywhere). I love ‘the weather” too – we don’t get sideways rain in the south of France. And as for snow… sigh… Haven’t seen any for years. I’m a fan of Kermit, but I prefer his nephew when he sings “half – way up the stairs”. 🙂

    • Hi MM!! Have been taking a break to focus on other stuff such as writing a novel (!) Good to be blogging again! How are YOU? x p.s. Kermit and Robin’s duet in A Muppet Christmas Carol is one of the cutest things EVER.

      • I’m very well, thanks – haven’t got a novel written though, well done you! When are you publishing? What about? Or is it all top secret for the moment?

      • 😀 Publishing next year, but we haven’t got a date yet – it’s a novel for children. Very excited about it! Hope winter is lovely en France xx

  13. Barbara Backer-Gray

    I feel exactly the same way!

    • That’s good to hear, Barbara – my husband thinks I’m totally loopy for feeling this way! 🙂

  14. To true about the weather here. Sometimes a walk in the rain is beautiful – and the snow – it certainly enhances thatched houses and fields of sheep for example – iconic British wintery scenes. Good luck with your writing though. I’ll watch out with interest. Would you like to connect on Facebook. Have you got an author page? Diana

    • Hi Diana! Thank you for reading! Haven’t got an author page yet (!) but will try to find you on facebook – will be good to keep in touch x

  15. Rachel Jordan

    Boy oh boy do I hear you on all of this. I’ve lived in Arizona,US for the last 13 years and I’m not sure how much more 360 days of sunshine a year I can take! And don’t get me started on 115-120F in the summer, it’s an inhospitable environment not suitable for humans! I do remember feeling blue in English winters sometimes, but I miss those frosty wintry walks, and have a nice cup of tea to warm up. Or being able to enjoy summer instead of being cooped up with the AC blasting. Or the rain, I LONG for the rain and trees with big dense leaves and moss and ferns. I’m 27 and I think I’m just beginning to realize how much England is “home” to me!

    • Hi Rachel, thanks so much for visiting H&H and for your lovely comment! I totally sympathize with your Arizona experiences… Don’t know about you, but I’m planning my great escape from the desert… 🙂

      • Rachel Jordan

        Well at least a two week escape to England at the end of this year! Haven’t been back in a few years so right now it’s pretty much all I think about right now! hah! The ultimate escape however?? I’ve planted a few little seeds in my husbands head but we shall see if they sprout. He’s just starting out in his career so uprooting right now might not be a good idea. But whether it’s England or somewhere (anywhere!) else in the US our days in AZ are definitely numbered.

      • I know how tricky it is timing these things and uprooting yourself for a fresh start somewhere new… Keep dreaming about your cool, crisp winter holiday! It’ll be here before you know it! x

  16. This is a nice and informative post. We have got two little rains in march. Weather is changing slightly and we can feel the effect of global warming, a little bit.

    No doubt that summer will be very tough for people from hill areas. But the infrastructure supports you to enjoy your holidays and vacations.

  17. Overcast

    Nicely written blog. I feel what you write but in a much more extreme way. No grass is greener issues, I simply love grey and cool and misty days and hate the sun. It makes me quite miserable and hot and saps my energy and gives me a headache. I don’t think I have ever complained in winter, and while I am not British I have lived over two years in the UK and loved the winters. I could never live in a sunny hot desert place.

    • And I don’t intend to for much longer! 🙂

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Lucy Strange

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