It's meant to be the most miserable time of the year - when the city is at its greyest, soberest and brokest - but does it have to be like this?
This morning, as I walked up Charing Cross Road, a young guy wearing a purple thermal jacket and a grin intercepted me. 'Hey buddy!' he said. 'You got a minute?' As I kept walking, he started jogging backwards beside me, like a personal trainer. 'Aw, don't be like that!' he went on, waving a clipboard. I stopped and turned. 'Look, mate,' I said. 'I'm not giving you any money. Or my card details. Or signing any petition. I'm just not. Okay?' I said it all in a good-natured, nothing-personal kind of way, but the guy's face immediately fell. 'Okay, man,' he replied. 'Have a good day.' I looked down at his clipboard: a photo of an emaciated greyhound in a cage stared dolefully back at me. With a nauseous feeling of guilt, I realised that I have become completely intolerant of cheerful people.
But what else is the miserable bastard Londoner to do at this time of year but treat cheerful people with suspicion? Cheerfulness isn't on the agenda in January, when under grey skies and endless rain, the capital's citizens shuffle past a bleak tableau of billboards advertising half-price gym memberships and winter sun package deals they can't afford. This is London in the long and crashing post-festive comedown. The fairy-lit jollities are over. Our bank accounts are empty. Our guts hang over our waistbands. Our livers have taken out restraining orders on us. Our sinuses hate us even more. We've hit peak gloom.
But here's the thing: aside from the disturbing number of reindeer jumpers on the sales racks, how is it any worse than the rest of the year? The weather? Sure. But we get rubbish weather in July, and it's much more disappointing then. Short days? Yep. But they're getting longer. Money woes? Granted. But they're not going anywhere, not until we all win the lottery or finally throw in the towel and move to Folkestone. Illness? You live in a city populated by almost 9 million people, there are germs everywhere. That constant sense of dread and anxiety? You're a Londoner, for God's sake: of course you're anxious.
In recent years, we've become obsessed with Blue Monday - the third Monday of January - when the various symptoms of this midwinter malaise are said to come together to account for the most depressing day of the year. But the psychologist who established the date has long since admitted that finding a day was part of strategy devised by a PR company. It's typical of a society obsessed with metrics, trends and big data. If only we could say for certain that Blue Monday is the worst day of the year: congrats, you've just survived it.
The danger is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Miserable bastard Londoners like me shouldn't just be given carte blanche to be miserable bastard Londoners. Maybe you'd have given the guy in the purple jacket a big hug and invited him to your spinning class. Maybe you'd have stuffed the picture of the death row greyhound down his throat. I'm not judging. So if you're going to be miserable, do it on your own terms.
Want more ranting and raving? Read Gail Tolley's column on why private members' clubs are leftovers of a lost world
Illustration: Nate Kitch