Wednesday, 5 January 2022

FINE BY THE FIRESIDE...


Calendar illustration for January

And now it's time for a deeply depressing descent into the depths of the doldrums, as I regale you all with yet another anaemic anecdote that's sure to arouse your apathy (if that's not a contradiction in terms) and have you reaching for the Diazepam to dampen your despair at my rambling reminiscences.  (Don't you just love loads of awesome alliteration?  I know I do.)

On my wall hangs a 1985 calendar, which I purchased from a bookshop in Ports-mouth back in the month of January or February of that very year.  It's a The Wind In The Willows calendar, featuring the iconic illustrations of Ernest H. Shepard, and for a month or three, it hung above the tiled fireplace of the bedsit room in which I was based at the time, travelling up to London twice a week whilst freelancing for IPC.

The calendar in March 1985

That tiled fireplace was a relic of another era, conjuring up images of the '50s or '60s when such a feature was commonplace in most houses in Britain.  I could just imagine families huddled around the roaring flames, trying to heat their cold bones on dark wintry nights, whilst listening to the radio and supping cups of Bovril or Horlicks. (Yucchh!)  Not so in my case however; the fireplace was empty, and a sheet of hardboard covered the recess where the grate should've been.

That year ('85), it snowed in Portsmouth.  Nothing more than a light fall covering the streets for two or three days, before turning to slush and then disappearing. You'd have thought it was a calamity of immense proportions.  "The worst snow we've had since 1963!" was the common cry of complaint from the locals.  I imagined the date to be a rough 'guesstimate', chosen merely because it was the closest approximation anyone could remember.  Imagine my surprise then, when, 20-odd years later, I heard a radio weather forecaster confirm the year of 1963 as indeed one of the worst on record for that particular part of the country (and the rest of Great Britain too, as it happens).

A scan of the calendar today

All I can say is that we Scots must be a hardy lot.  Such a light snowfall for so short a period wouldn't have been a big deal to us.  If anything, we'd have been disappointed that it hadn't been heavier and longer-lasting.  However, let's not mock the English for being wimps - they can't help it.  (He said, in a deeply caring, affectionate and non-xenophobic way.)

Anyway, what has all this to do with anything?  Just this: As I type these words, it's snowing* outside, and glancing at that calendar reminds me of when it hung on the wall of a bedsit in Fratton on a similar kind of evening nearly 30 years ago. The fireplace gave forth no heat back then, but recalling that room today, with the selfsame calendar hanging on my present wall, the embers of memory cast a warm glow that envelops me in its radiant embrace. 

(*Or it was when I first wrote this.  It is frosty outside though.)

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