Part 76: Icy, Icy England

Isn’t it just joyous, to step from the cosy cocoon of one’s bedclothes straight into a blast of chilling wind so icy that beads of moisture form icicles on the rim of one’s nostrils? Isn’t it just doubly joyous to do so in late March, when tradition dictates that one should be picking daffodils in pleated midi-skirts and pastel twin-sets and delivering them to one’s mother in a wicker basket?

The answer to both of those questions is, obviously, no, it is not. It is unpleasant in the extreme. Snow capped roof tops are only romantic in December. And even then only because brain freeze takes the edge off the hundreds of pounds haemorrhaging from your bank account and morphing into overpriced chiffon scarves from Accessorize that will sit unworn in the back your Nan’s wardrobe until such a time that your as-yet-unborn nephew needs a costume for his role as one of the three kings in the primary school nativity.

I don’t think I’m the only one who has looked out of the window and then at the weather app on my i-phone and concluded that Britain is going to be cold, like, FOREVER. This is seriously depressing, not least because months of central heating use have left clumps of white skin flaking from my face and landing on my clothing in an ironic impersonation of the world outside.

Still, if there’s one thing to thank The Big Freeze for it is, unsurprisingly, that it has served as a timely reminder that excessive weather conditions are definitely easier to bear sans lover. This is because, despite those fantasies, close to the surface of our romance-hungry brains, about the warmth of another human body, sex in front of the fireplace, matching winter-wear etc, everybody knows that an extended winter lockdown with a loved one is unpleasant and likely to cause malfunctions of the personality not conducive to harmony. I mean, who could, hand on heart, promise that she would not wish to violently assault her romantic partner should that romantic partner chill her duvet-warmed flesh with a freezing tootsie. Not I.

Seasons are, after all, the reason why the British are a generally peaceable, affable people on their home turf. We have an annual schedule of activity and a carefully constructed wardrobe that revolves around three month bursts of predictable climatic conditions (including obligatory golf umbrellas for summer family picnics). We are rendered wholly unable to cope when Ural winds/halted Gulf Streams intervene in established conventions by causing the world outside to be fucking freezing at a point in the year when it should be pleasantly temperate. In fact, I think you could probably attribute much of the violence that occurred under British colonialism to the lack of preparedness our forefathers had for dealing with, say, the relentless heat of Sub-Saharan Africa, or the long cold winters of Northern America*.

I have no evidence in support of this, but I would not be in the least bit surprised if the domestic violent crime rate had seen a recent sharp rise – if only because violent criminals are, like the rest of us, unwilling to leave the house because of the weather and slowly succumbing to a debilitating rage brought on by cabin fever.

All I can suggest, single people, in the midst of the modern ice-age, is that you hunker down with a sun lamp and a good book and wait for the snow-storm to pass. Unless you can afford a holiday, in which case, I’ll totally let you off should you feel all horny and allow the rush of sun induced serotonin to convince you that you’ve fallen in love with a Mediterranean waiter. Although, having watched Shirley Valentine, I wouldn’t recommend bringing one home.

*On reflection, I probably don’t think this.

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Part 75: Home Ownership

I have now reached that unenviable age. Youth is just about behind me, I am on the cusp of a career that might never take off and I can only watch as all around my mates and their ‘partners’ morph from carefree fun-lovin’ nightclub companions into bonafide adults – using the template favoured by my own parents and many of their tedious friends (beard, betrothal, baby). This is obviously very distressing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I am now forced to find some extra thousand pounds or so in my annual budget in order that I can attend the weddings which have become the sole focus of my social calendar. I have to say, I’m looking forward to my thirties – if only for the inevitability of a divorce wave that might lend some much needed variety to my social landscape (I’m a friend much better equipped to deal with the recently betrayed than with the recently betrothed. Ask anyone, my particular brand of fabulous is precisely dark enough for crises).

Still, I can just about deal with weddings and engagements because these are festivities that demand the consumption of alcohol – which, happily, takes the edge off the compulsion I have to smash my own face with a heavy glass thing whenever one is announced. There is, unhappily, no such alcohol based respite from the tedium bound to ensue when a partnered friend purchases a house – until, of course, the housewarming party at which you can take revenge for the months of wearisome reports on the offer, acceptance, disclosure, chain, exchange, remodel by decorating their bathroom floor with regurgitated Chianti.

Home ownership is, I’ve no doubt, well overrated. When I was at university an Ancient Languages student I used to drink gin and tonic with on a Thursday night put me right off the idea of ever applying for a mortgage when he told me the word was derived from the Ancient Greek meaning ‘obligation until death’ (although, as he dropped out of his degree at the end of the second year, due to an ongoing abuse of class A substances that turned out to be incompatible with the study of historic hieroglyphs, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this translation). I’m having enough trouble committing to another year in Leeds – the thought that I might be stopped from engaging in whimsical changes of postcode in order to pay astronomical portions of my wages to the bank until such a time as my yet unborn children reach maturity is entirely unattractive. As is the thought of spending my savings on such things as: roof repairs, re-tiling, buildings insurance, plumbing (God, even typing those words is boring, imagine having to read them on an invoice).

Being blessed with considerable foresight, I realise that, despite the benefits of rental, chucking half my wages into someone else’s pocket on a monthly basis might one day seem excessive. Particularly if I ever move back to London, where Boris Johnson’s staunch refusal to bring in rent control means the average monthly cost of renting is 120% of my current monthly wage. I just hope I have the good sense to stay single once home ownership becomes a necessary evil. I feel less wearied when single friends purchase properties – it just seems, somehow, more like freedom. Also, it’s easier to be pleased for single people because they are usually less smug about house purchases on social media forums. And the very least you should do when undertaking an obligation until death is make sure that your friends are pleased for you. It takes the edge off, in the absence of alcohol. I don’t know why.