Monday, 17 October 2011

Much Ado About Nothing?

Welcome! To my first blog post in almost five years, back by popular demand (well, enthusiastic suggestion...) I thought it would be an excellent idea to open up the floor to ideas for a first topic, and so asked around on StalkBook and Twitter. The collective responses created such a smorgasbord of weirdness that I decided to list them on here for your amusement:

Time travel
Things that make me smile
Things that grind my gears (!)
The most significant thing I've learned this year so far
Underwater basket-weaving
A stranger possessed by an alien cake ingredient

I know. Brilliant.

One thing I decided right away was that, whereas I believed all of these issues to have the potential for some decent ramblings at some point, I would never ever stoop so low as to waste space writing about 'weather'. I hate stereotypes, and what can be more stereotypical than an English girl ranting about the weather, right?

That was until late Saturday morning however, when I popped into the local Co-op to pick up some lunch. After going through the inevitable, internal: 'Do I want a wrap, or sausage rolls?' debate, which occurs every time I stand in the chilled isle staring at the depressingly sushi-less options on offer, I decided on sausage rolls and joined the queue. I waited patiently behind an elderly couple attempting to tear coupons out of a magazine - ripping them to shreds in the process - and an irrefutably White Lightening-scented lad, repeatedly itching his head with disturbing enthusiasm.

My gaze idly wandered from the special offers (large tubs of Celebrations for only £5.79! Memo to self: buy a tub, before the price reverts to rivalling that of my monthly rent) to the personal hygiene shelf (does anyone ever buy Co-op Basics mouthwash? It's so luminous it could be used as an underwater beacon) until I noticed something which jerked me out of my reverie, causing my eyes to widen to almost three times their normal size, and my mouth to drop open in utter shock and horror.

(Yes. Just like that.)

It was the newspaper stand and, in particular, the headline of the Daily Mail (which, incidentally, sports the self awarded title of 'The World's Greatest Newspaper', although I suspect this is a matter hugely up for debate; not unlike its content it has to be said):


I realise that headlines are designed to draw in their readers by being as shock-inducing as possible. I also realise that, being the Daily Fail, it should probably be taken with more than a pinch of salt (or road grit, in this case). However, on arriving back to Chez Becki and Googling said pending weather, it would seem that - sadly for me - this may be the closest to a factual headline the Daily Wail has published in years. Apparently when I wake up later this morning, I will be faced with icy temperatures, wind, sleet and snow, from the Pennines all the way down to Devon. Great.

I should explain. Growing up in North Yorkshire, I attended a large sprawling private school in the heart of some beautiful countryside. The location was fantastic, and the facilities were great (they had awesome art and music blocks) but the majority of the buildings were extremely old and draughty. The winter months were brutal. I remember huddling around giant white radiators with hardly any heat in them to try and warm up at break times, many cold-induced tummy aches, and getting chilblains on my toes because my feet were so chilly. Going home to eat dinner in the baking-warmed kitchen with my family, having a hot bath before bed, and snuggling down at night with a hot water bottle and 'Angelina Ballerina' to cuddle however, definitely made up for it.

Then at the age of thirteen, we moved to the Midlands, where I attended the local comprehensive school. The modern buildings were much warmer as was the general area. However, my issues with being cold continued in one major un-get-out-able aspect of school life - sports. I detested P.E, and always had done, for the following four reasons:

1. I felt intimidated by the teachers, particularly one who once referred to me as a 'brain dead seagull' (!)

2. I loathed the showers. We had to go in threes, stark naked, into a communal ceramic chamber of watery shame, overlooked by a teacher who harangued us through our thirty seconds under the water and one minute to get dried and changed. As an extremely self-conscious (and not terribly speedy) twelve year old it was a perpetually embarrassing nightmare.

3. I have as much sporting ability as a plank of wood. With termites. Dead ones.

4. Winter outdoor sports in a tiny pleated skirt and skimpy t-shirt...oh, the cold!!

It was not fun. However, I don’t want to convey that I had a terrible, frozen childhood. I had a great childhood (P.E trauma aside!) - in fact, any flurries of snow at all would send myself and my sister screaming to our parents and demanding wellies, scarves, instant garden access, and a carrot for the nose of the snowman we were already designing in our heads. And it is a simple fact that, growing up in this country, you subconsciously accept that this is how it is. It's England; it's cold. You have an umbrella and a duffle coat. You can wear your socks in bed if you need to. And you get annual snowball fights into the bargain. So just get on with it!

At the age of twenty-one however, September 2002 saw me embarking upon a ten month round the world trip. The first couple of months were pretty chilly, as I travelled through beautiful upstate New York, Ohio, and Canada. But then in November - on Thanksgiving as I recall, and feeling extremely tearful at leaving some amazing friends behind - I flew to Viti Levu, Fiji, and thus began my love affair with the heat. From the moment I stepped out of the airport into the thick, pungent, deliciously scented air, I was hooked. I remember just standing there and looking around me in a daze, all my senses instantaneously bombarded with colours that seemed hazily brighter than usual, sky that looked bluer, ground which had a sparkling, almost aqueous quality to it, and the sun...well, the sun appeared to be actually hugging me. At least that's what it felt like - totally, utterly and completely enveloped in a thick, comforting, neverending warmth. It was amazing.

Since then, simply speaking, I have never stopped craving the heat. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy a crisp autumnal morning or the smell of bonfires on November 5th. I appreciate the beauty of snow shrouded trees in the winter and the muffled 'pat pat pat' of wellies walking past the window, leaving a vanishing trail of footprints behind them. I love Christmas with my family, snuggling in front of the fire on Christmas Eve, and fresh early morning walks in the village where my parents live. I can appreciate the beauty of the winter months as much as the next person.

What I HATE however are the parts of winter that many people don't stop to think about. Last year when the snow came, living alone in a new city at the top of a massive hill, was the worst winter of my life. I spent weeks pep-talking myself up on a daily basis simply to leave the house, and then when I did, being shamefully and regularly overtaken by elderly superheroes in the street, striding forcefully over snow and ice like human grit-machines and leaving me shuffling anxiously along in their wake. 

I discovered that when you live alone, every expedition out of the house is a nightmare of epic proportions. You're isolated if you stay in, but you can feel even more isolated when you go out. What happens when you fall over on that horrific two meter sheet of ice outside your house which no amount of salt can melt, and as you hit the ground you realise that nobody knows where you are? What about when your boiler breaks down, and the wonders at British Gas take six days to get to you, so for those six days you end up living like a modern day hobbit, huddled in your bedroom over a small electric heater, wrapped in a duvet, watching reruns on 4oD and drinking Cointreau to keep warm? How about the fact that it takes over an hour to walk to work in the snow, so you have to set off in the dark to get there on time, but that by 5pm it's so dark and miserable once again that you end up staying til 7pm just to delay attempting to get home until absolutely necessary?

Taxis can't get to you. Busses are cancelled. Trains aren’t running so you’re literally trapped. Yes - winter alone is hideous. The cryophobically challenged of society, we take our lives in our hands every day merely to put the bins out, let alone attempting to get anywhere further afield!

In summary, this passionately sunshiney girl is not a fan of ‘Arctic Blast’s of any kind. And would like to put out a national plea (should the country once again be smothered in a blanket of frozen ice crystals this week): 

Next time you’re making your way down a snow clad street, and you spot a little person shrouded in a thousand scarves, advancing as slowly as a snail on Zopiclone, eyes screwed shut and triple-layered arms outstretched for added balance like a nervous, overdressed tight-rope walker, be a saint and offer them your arm. They’ll love you forever - and besides, you never know. It could be me.


  1. you are charming and wonderful and intelligent and hilarious. i heart angelina ballerina x