Tuesday, August 18, 2009


It is cool and gray and a little rainy outside and I love it. The cooler, damp air is soothing after hot, dry days that leach all the water out of my hair and skin and make my eyes ache from the brightness. The weather today is like a cozy, dewy cloud all around me, and excites me with the prospect of the upcoming season of day after day of snuggly gray sweaters.

I ducked into Peet’s at lunch, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee was warm in the air. People were clustered around the few small tables, huddled over their coffee cups and talking animatedly about subjects of apparent great interest. You know me – not content to take in the scene on its face, I was instead transported back to the perpetual autumn of London and the pleasure of ducking into its coffee shops, pubs, wine bars and tea rooms for a little bit of cheer to brace oneself against the bite of yet another gray day. Perhaps because it is so often cold and rainy there, the British seem to have gotten coziness down to a science. It’s largely as simple as the use of warm lighting that spills out of picture windows into the chill of the street, but there is also something about the d├ęcor. For example, this is a picture of the bar in my favorite hotel in London, the Cadogan.

In the winter, by 5:00 pm it is solidly dark outside, and this room glows with the warmth of the lamplight on the polished wood and the small, silver dishes of nuts and crisps. My mother and I settle back against our cushions, usually with various shopping bags at our feet: Waterstone’s, Cath Kidston, Selfridges… always a good day. The bartender brings my mother her whisky and ginger ale; the small pleasures factor amplified by the use of Schweppes American ginger ale – a ginger ale with less sugar and a stronger tang of ginger than one would ever find Stateside. A champagne cocktail for me; a rough sugar cube dissolving under its iodine splash of bitters, merrily spinning thin ropes of the tiniest bubbles towards the surface. Really, that is my idea of heaven.

Do you ever just completely disappear into your mind? Writing that, I was practically there, ready for a fun conversation with my mom. I’m sure we’d be discussing the books we bought and whether we wanted to keep our reservation at whatever happening new restaurant I had painstakingly researched from the comfort of my office or just walk over to the Enterprise.

But then I snapped out of it, and guess what: here I am at work and the sun is back out and I have a conference call in 30 minutes and then it’s home to a teething baby and another sleepless night. But that is what vacations are for, right? To give you memories to trot out when you need them most.

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