93. The Peasouper

By Peter Fraenkel

I was walking home from Becky’s party. I was sure I was within a block or two of my flat. The entrances to houses I passed looked familiar. But I was lost. Hopelessly lost.

I wasn’t drunk.  Well, I may have had a few drinks at the party but, honest, I wasn’t.

It was the fog. Thick yellowish impenetrable-looking fog: a peasouper, as it was called. Smelly, too. I knew once I got home – if I ever did – I would have to rinse out my nose.

I found myself in a street where even the house entrances no longer looked familiar. I must have strayed into unknown territory. I turned back. Once I almost bumped into a couple kissing in the privacy of that foggy street. I apologised. I might have asked for directions but their minds were obviously on other matters.

Busses were not running. Was the underground? If only I could find an underground entrance! I strayed around for perhaps half an hour without being able to orientate myself. Was I going to have to sleep in a ditch? Or a bench if I could find one? Or appeal to strangers for shelter? Perhaps I might ask a policeman? But they all seemed to have fled from the streets.

If I could get back to Becky’s she would, no doubt, let me sleep on her settee …. Unless others of her party guests had laid claim to it before me.  Share her bed? No. Undoubtedly her boyfriend had a better claim.

I don’t remember how long I strayed with a pit of fear in my tummy. It seemed like hours but I don’t suppose it really was. And then – surprise-

I recognised the entrance to the underground. I descended to a platform. Little or no fog down there.

Stop. Think. From which station was the walk to my flat findable even blindfold? I worked out my route in detail. From Belsize Park: one road crossing. One turn left. Third entrance.

I did get home safely eventually to be greeted effusively by my flatmates. My room felt cold and humid. Richard helped me start my open fire. We got it going eventually. He knew that coming from Central Africa I did not have much experience of such fires.  Once we got it going well Myra made me a cup of tea.

“I hope you realise,” she said pointing to our wonderful warming open fire, “that is what is causing the peasouper.”