Monday, January 11, 2010

Layered like lasagne

Boxing Day AM: I am attending a BBQ on the Yarra in honour of Middle Bro's 30th birthday, enjoying the hot, hot rays of sunshine on the last day of my holiday.

Boxing Day PM: While lying in the park with a friend as the sun sinks behind palm trees, I discover that the backs of my arms are pink and tender, and I have acquired some really quite impressive sandal marks on the tops of my feet. Never have I been so delighted to be sunburnt. If nothing else it will remind me of the sun as I return to bleak mid-Winter London.

Two days later: I land at Heathrow amid a flurry of the usual doomsday Winter headlines: "ARCTIC WINTER", "TRANSPORT CHAOS" etc. etc., which I ignore in much the same way I ignore the "HEATWAVE", "TRANSPORT CHAOS" headlines that pop up every time the mercury hits a sweltering 28 degrees in the Summer. The British media love nothing more than exaggerating the effects of any weather that differs from "fine and mild" (unless it's gleefully reporting on drunk young celebs showing their undies).

This time, however, it turns out to be slightly closer to the truth than usual.

I have completely forgotten how to dress for this weather, as I seem to do every year. It's like childbirth, I guess, in that we are wired to forget the pain so that we don't all move to the Bahamas (and stop reproducing).

A few days after I get back, I cycle to work in an extra vest and big Winter coat, with just one layer of tights under a miniskirt. They're wool, I tell myself, it'll be fine. Except that it's not. The wind wooshes up my coat sleeves, down my neck, straight through my wool tights, and assaults my exposed face. I'm stunned by how cold it is. It is literally breath-taking. A truck driver stopped at the lights yells "LEGGGGS!" out of his window at me, which would make me smile wryly under normal circumstances (it does seem a fairly polite observation, and is to the point without being smutty or using rude words), but my face feels like it's carved of ice, and the few brain cells that aren't frozen solid are concentrating very hard on my survival, which depends on me reaching the office before hypothermia sets in.

Must keep moving. Must ignore pain in forehead and chin. Must get to office.

By the time I get there, I am rigid with cold, absolutely frozen to the bone, and my face is bright red. I feel like a big Australian fool.

So I have retired the bike for now. The streets are treacherous, especially the back streets which haven't been gritted and are covered in the Invisible Black Ice of Death.

But I think I'm learning to outsmart that grinning idiot Jack Frost. I have taken to wearing 2 vests under my work top, and a fleece under my coat. Six layers in total, plus various woolen accessories for exposed bits. I'm eating twice as much as in the Summer, strictly for the purposes of building up a prudent layer of insulation, you understand.

Pass me the After Eights, will you? And that leftover Christmas cake while you're at it. Don't be shy with the brandy butter.

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