Monday, 3 December 2012

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 Demazipan 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 Portsmouth back in the month of January or February
of that very year. It's a 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 staying at the time, 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 any-
one 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 whole 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 Buckland 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. 

6 comments:

George Shiers said...

I'm feeling homesick now - it sometimes sucks been 11,000 miles from home all the time :(

Kid said...

Your comment was waiting when I published the post. I must have inadvertently published it (the post) while I was still working on it.

baab said...

I sometimes find it hard to believe that I grew up in a cold damp old house with no central heating and a fireplace upstairs covered over..
I am walking around my current abode wearing shorts and a t-shirt as the snow lays outside.

My young sons attitude to me relating this is met with much the same incredulity as I faced my father with when he related his poor poor growing up stories.

Our fireplace (identical to the one above)had a board over it on which we stuck our marvel sticker collection.

Kid said...

Baab and George, I'm convinced that's one of the reasons families are more fractured nowadays. Before central heating in every room, families tended to congregate in the living-room where the main (and usually only) source of heat was to be found. Now, with heating in every part of the house, everyone is in their own room doing their own thing.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

A lot different for me. It was in the mid 60's today and foggy this morning! I hope it'll continue to stay that way but fat chance that it will (not much of a snow person).

Thanks for the Wind in the Willows nod there.

Kid said...

Nae bother, Chris.