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  • Writer's pictureJanette Frawley

Fairy lights on Winter nights

29 December 2021

I don't mind admitting that we had a fairly lazy day today. I ventured out alone; a set of directions saved to my phone that doesn't have an internet connection when I leave the house. London, unlike so many modern cities, has not embraced the idea of free WiFi availability. Perhaps it is a good thing. It makes people take more notice of what is around them. Of course, if I was hopelessly lost and desperate to access the internet, I could switch on my hugely-expensive roaming and get myself out of trouble. There is no need to do that today because I am retracing old steps to visit Dulwich village, where I decide to sit down at a window table to contemplate life and to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Almost every shopping strip I've visited so far is prettily decorated with lights, trees, and other Christmassy ornaments. Houses too. The early sunset, currently occurring between 3:30 and 4:00 in the afternoon, brings forth brightening flickering lights in windows and along the streets. I do wonder why our streets in Australia do not mirror the beautiful decorations those in the Northern Hemisphere embrace. Is it simply political correctness or is it that councils do not want to spend the money? The pathetic cardboard rubbish bin covers and wire Christmas trees that don the streets of Boroondara have seen better days and should be replaced with decorations that will attract the masses.

This evening, we take the bus and train into Oxford Circus, the centre of West End, where the Christmas lights are at their best. Some websites list all the best street and store decorations; some even provide self-walking tours that we can follow. Natasha has organised a route we can walk, which will include some of the best sights. Rugged up against the evening chill, we pop up out of the Underground right in the centre of town; brightly-lit angels hovering above our heads. In blue and gold colours they appear to fly high above the red double-decker London buses. From here we slip into quirky Carnaby Street over which colourful butterflies in all shapes and sizes are strategically placed on arches spanning the street. Around the corner, white peacock feathers made up of thousands of tiny white lights form a tunnel effect, which culminates with a huge chandelier-shaped decoration at each of the street. A narrow pedestrian street has blue trees at either end; white buildings on either side reflect the colour of blue-lit archways. Individual stores, hotels, and other buildings have been transformed into gingerbread houses, gifts, and Fortnum and Mason has been transformed into a huge Advent Calendar.

Interestingly, many of the beautifully-lit streets and buildings are not necessarily using a Christmas theme. The lights attract many families into the city's shopping and entertainment zones and provide a wonderfully festive atmosphere.

It's impossible to visit every site in one night, but I am so very glad we came here before the lights are removed for the year.

Being able to explore the streets at night provides a new perspective to London. Since being in lockdown on the other side of the world and unable to travel until now

has given me a renewed appreciation of the enormous efforts made to encourage people to return to doing the things they once enjoyed. For me, the lights provide a sense of joy and hope for a bright future.

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