I love London, and each time I visit I’m reminded how much I enjoy being holed up in a cosy pub, drinking wine with my oldest friends – laughing till our sides ache, reminiscing, and marvelling at how much time has passed since we were at Uni together.
Nearly two decades have flashed by! How did that happen?
Our graduation ceremonies feel so recent, mine etched on my mind forever because I spied a fellow student’s grannie stuffing silverware into her handbag when she thought no one was looking.
These past few days, I’ve also enjoyed every minute of catching up with my family – loved ones I don’t see enough of due to living in the Middle East.
Everyone has said the same thing, though: “What are you doing here? Has something happened?”
They’re asking this because, since moving to Dubai four years ago, I’ve timed all my visits to the Northern hemisphere to coincide with warmer temperatures and long days.
This time, it’s winter – there’s a cold, howling wind that whips right through you, the tree branches are bare and the pale winter sun gives way to an eerie twilight at about 3.50pm.
I know my friends and family are struggling with blustery days, during which they go to work and return home in the dark like badgers, but, for me, the blast of winter is a wonderful novelty – a chance to drink warming hot chocolate by the radiator, to snuggle under the duvet with the iPad – and wear the Uggs.
I’m no stranger to winter. When we lived in the States – in Minneapolis, a city I adored in spring, summer and fall, the temperature could plummet to minus 25, so cold it hurt. During these sub-zero spells, if you threw a cup of boiling water into the air, it would freeze by the time it hit the ground.
Yet, at the same time, it was like living in a magical, winter wonderland. Fresh, fluffy snow would burst through the clouds, the flakes lightly touching your face, attaching to your lashes and tickling your nose. The sky, I remember, was nearly always blue, and the frozen lakes dotted with ice fishing huts and the odd car.
A British winter is, of course, far more dreary and overcast, but when you’ve escaped it for eight years running, it doesn’t seem gloomy. On the contrary, I’ve been revelling in the cosiness and loving the winter fashions being paraded everywhere I go. The scarves, hats, boots and coats – floor-length maxi-coats, double-breasted wool coats and fur-lined jackets in trendy winter colours like mustard and aubergine.
I’ve practically had to stop myself coo-ing at coats out loud or, worse, running up to people in the street to snatch the coat off their back.
Believe me, winter can be utterly fabulous, especially when you’ve just arrived from the desert and it’s only four days long.