Thursday, February 05, 2009

A foggy day in London town.

In addition to finding beauty in decay, I also find foggy days can render even the most ordinary sight into something appealing yet swathed in mystery.
The London fogs of the 1950's are legendary for their severity and here I show a more artistic and lesser appreciated side of the fog. These photo's are genuine colour footage of those days and the vehicles, here in daily use are now long gone.

Londoners used to call these fogs 'Pea-soupers'. The reason for this is that they were so thick and often had a greenish tint due to pollution in the air that they resembled a thick pea soup!

It may be hard to imagine in these pollution conscious days but most of these photographs were taken during daylight! I can clearly remember those days when daylight became darkness due to the mixture of fog and pollution, when venturing outdoors it was the usual thing to wrap a scarf around the mouth and nose to prevent ingestion of the thick, damp, yellow air.

Those that didn't protect themselves in this way would often end up with bronchial complaints due to breathing in the 'pea soup'.

In this photo and the one below you can clearly see the circular object to the top right of the picture...that is the sun not the moon!
Fogs like this lasted right through until the 1960's when the clean air bill was passed and many areas were forbidden to use coal as a fuel for their domestic heating. Combined with the growing use of gas fires to heat homes the 'pea soupers' were finally consigned to the past with great benefit to personal health - and road safety!

Note the guy above riding his motorcycle without a helmet, without lights and in fog, today's health and safety motoring measures would have a nervous breakdown at this! LOL
Notice too the old streetlamps, they were leftover from the Victorian period and were originally gas lights, by the 1950's however they had been converted to electricity and gave off a lovely soft glow when lit.

The overhead cables seen in this shot were for the 'Trolley-buses' which were similar to a big red London bus but ran on electricity from the overhead power supply. The black and white stripes on the traffic lights also served to make them more visible in poor conditions.

Despite the many health advantages of today's clean air part of me misses those old fogs. There was something truly magical, and quite romantic about those old streets swathed in thick fog where often the passenger in a vehicle had to get out and guide the driver along the road!

I'm not the first artist to find British fog and murky weather appealing of course, a century before the Victorian artist John Atkinson Grimshaw was painting similar scenes filled with beautiful gaslight.

Although one shouldn't lament the passing of those fogs purely on health or safety grounds, I have to admit to feeling a tinge of sadness at the loss of the visual poetry purveyed in soft edged in light and shade that was provided by them.

1 comment:

Hermes said...

What good use of his paintings. I can still remember foggy days like that from my youth in Barking.