England: cold, bleak, dank. November is not the optimum time for outdoor comfort; the mist seeps into your bones and turns the tip of your nose red.
Here we are in our winter woolies. Since time immemorial, we and our forebears have wrapped up warm and strode out into the grey melancholy landscape of England in November.
But we do have a survival mechanism: a way to see each other, even on the gloomiest day; a place to tell stories and meet round a pint.
I speak, of course, of the English pub.
Yesterday my family and I trooped out for Sunday lunch at a pub in the wilds of Berkshire, on the edge of Windsor Forest. The day was not actually grey; the sunlight was dappling the buildings outside. But we are creatures of habit, and headed for the companionable darkness of Indoors.
In most English pubs there is a roaring fire in a grate, and this was no exception. Most of the windows did not admit much light- the forest was overtaking them; but did we care? We did not. Because this is how pubs are, in England, in November. Little dark hobbit holes where we go to set the world to rights.
We ate a huge amount, and conversed over pints and the occasional wine glass, and never once did time drag.
We were warm, and the light from the fire in the hearth danced on the walls. One hundred conversations murmured, the affable rise and fall of voices at leisure.
It was a very good Sunday.