Time Out’s award winning columnist Michael Hodges has been at it again. This week’s thing not to do in London – No 98: dress unseasonably.
The rudest word that begins with ‘C’ echoes through the night and a man in orange swimming trunks and a yellow dayglo vest comes hurtling through the frosty air. As he crashes on to the tarmac with a wail, the door of the nightclub he has just left so flamboyantly slams shut behind him. A moment later it opens again and an oversized sombrero comes spinning from the same direction. The wide-brimmed hat hovers for a second or so before landing gently in the mixture of muck and foul water that has formed a puddle by the kerb. The man in the orange swimming trunks looks at me. I look at him. There is no need for words, for it’s clear what has happened. This man is woefully ill-equipped for an outbreak of hostilities with the club’s security personnel. The trunks and yellow day-glo vest tell me all I need to know: he has got winter spectacularly wrong.
It’s easy to do, though most of us go the other way, succumbing to the myth that winter in London is particularly harsh and donning outerwear made from blizzardresistant fabrics favoured by arctic explorers. For all their claims of breathability, these garments leave the wearer – if he happens to be attending a speakeasy held in the boiler room of a light industrial unit in Haggerston – drowning in his own sweat. But, as the man on the tarmac with damp Speedos and a soiled sombrero has just found out, it’s equally mistaken to hang on to the delusion that it is still summer. It isn’t still summer, and all those places where you had such a good time only few months ago are no longer waiting to entertain you. Arrive at a multi-storey car park in Peckham and you will no longer find the buzz of engaging company and some very welcoming people mixing you a cocktail, but simply a multi-storey car park in Peckham. In winter.
London’s winter differs to those of other cities. In December in New York you may find yourself standing over an iron drain cover that suddenly spurts boiling steam up into the street. A pleasantly warming surprise for the first few seconds but thereafter a lot of bad news down below. In Moscow things are more obviously extreme. If you do step out, say for a night of vodka shots and blinies, and forget to slip into thermal undergarments and a hat made from the skins of endangered mammals there is a strong chance that you’ll freeze to death. Though if you drink enough vodka you might not notice that you’ve died.
Even that is small beer compared to the risks those in search of a good time must run in Longyearbyen, the capital of the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. In Longyearbyen a trip to one of the city’s six or so bars carries with it the very real danger of being eaten by a polar bear. Possibly an entertaining spectacle for onlookers, but if it’s you that gets devoured then undoubtedly a bad end to the evening. Not that the evening will be ending soon: 24-hour winter darkness in Svalbard lasts from November 11 until January 24.
In London, by comparison, the only steam on our streets comes from takeaway flat whites and much of Soho, Shoreditch and even Streatham remains free of polar
bears. A bad end to the evening is less likely to involve being chased by an enraged predator and more likely to involve the people you have been drinking with all night taking you back to their flat for an afterparty, then producing a harness and a bullwhip and saying, ‘You did know we were members of a pretty active S&M group, didn’t you?’
But one rule remains true whether you’re wearing a bondage harness, the pelts of small animals or orange swimming trunks. Call the bouncer a cunt and you’re out the door.
What else shouldn’t you do in London? Find out from Michael Hodges’s mistakes here.