Greetings from London.

Thatís what it feels like, anyway. Not to stereotype London, of course, but anytime you see that English city in a movie itís overcast, foggy, dreary and cold. Kinda like weíve been since Christmas.

Listen, I figure it this way. My Indian ancestors likely came from Siberia across the Bering Strait and clear across North America to settle in Louisiana. My Cajun forebears left Nova Scotia and did the same. The common denominator is obvious: Both left cold, dreary climates to come to a sub-tropical paradise.

To me, if my ancestors went through all that trouble, we deserve some sorta guarantee or something.

They say not seeing sunlight and having sunshine on your skin makes people depressed, and I certainly do believe it. Given the choice right now between a) Seeing the sun again and b) Having $2 billion deposited in my checking account and never seeing the sun again, Iíd have to stay destitute. Money canít buy happiness, and it definitely canít buy summertime.

They say that Phil the groundhog meteorologist didnít see his shadow yesterday, so weíre going to have an early spring. Hereís what bugs me about olí Punxsutawney: If he sees his shadow, itís six more weeks of winter. If he doesnít, itís "an early spring."

Why is it Phil can be so exacting on how much more winter weíre gonna get, but downright vague and shifty over when springís coming? Thereís something just not right about all that.

Here it is February, for Peteís sake, and itís been wintry in Lousyana since November, at least. Oh, weíve had some moments of warmth, but not many since December. Just ainít right. Whatís the point in living in the sub-tropics? I think we all ought to write letters to Punxsutawney and tell him to get a real job.

You know who should get Philís job? Snoopy. Thatís right, Snoopy. Snoopy loved warm weather, and would be a lot more careful in the accuracy of his predictions. Snoopy would always dance a happy jig when warm weather came at last, like any self-respecting beagle should. I vote we kick Phil out on his front teeth and give Snoopy the position with extra benefits. Woodstock could be his executive secretary.

I donít know which is worse: A pure-dee, all-out downpour where itís raining like the worldís ending, or these little piddling, misty, nasty rains weíve been having of late. Itís like, you know that feeling when you think you gotta sneeze and it just wonít happen? Thatís what these little dinky rains have been like: You just want it to blow and get it over with it.

Those little wimpy rains are like people who canít make up their minds. Wishy-washy. I tend to be that way, but I do have a firm decisive attitude about rain: Get it over with and bring on the sunshine! Itís getting close to prime sac-au-lait time (thatís crappie for you Yanks, which is a ridiculous thing to call them, and for you non-fisherman, thatís a fish) and Iím itching to get out there and try to fool a couple into biting a coupla flies I have just for them.

Dreary, nasty, dark and depressing. I spend too much time in the house, running the heater. Now, thereís another thing that bugs me to no end: natural gas prices. Itís one of the great failings of this country that we donít put regulations on energy prices. As soon as the weatherman predicts "a cold February" (booming voice, beating drums) the speculators drive the cost of natural gas up 12 percent.

Iím sorry, you can preach to me all you want about the free enterprise system, capitalism, the American-way, yadda, yadda, yadda, but thatís not right. Just like with oil and gasoline, when someone belches in Nicaragua and the price of unleaded goes up a quarter. Itís not right to escalate the price of natural gas, especially, and put burdens on not only average Americans, but old people on fixed incomes, the poor and the like, and itís especially criminal to hike up prices based on predicted weather. If February turns out to not be as cold, are we gonna get a refund? Fat chance. Energy market speculators need to be the first ones lined up against the wall in front of the firing squad when the revolution comes.

Anyway, Iím not gonna pull the soap box out again today and preach about the sorry state of affairs these days, other than itís cold, dreary, wet and dark. I hate to get out of the house when itís like this, and when it gets too cold and dreary I let the dog sleep nights in the workshop, which is consequently starting to smell pretty doggy. I threw an old comforter down on the concrete floor for her, and she rests comfortably there all the night. Sheís getting old, and I know how my bones ache in the cold, dreary, wet and dark nastiness, so I feel sorry for her and in the worst weather let her go in the shop. In the morning when I get up to go to work, I have to put her back in the yard because Iíll be gone too long for her to stay inside without a tinkle break.

She comes to the door with me, looks outside, sighs in resignation and goes on out, as if thinking, "If youíd have gotten rich early in your life, like your daddy told you to, we could both stay inside today," and sheís right, of course. So we trudge on out, her back to the yard where sheíll find a warm spot under the house or in the woodshed, and me to work, to write columns and dream of crappie.

Winter. You can have it.