Wintry wardrobe

Despite many Southampton trees clinging on to some of their anthocyanin-dyed leaves, it is hard to deny that winter has laid its wintery cloak upon us.

I have yet to turn on the heating in the flat, but I have stopped flouncing around with my torso clad only in a t-shirt – I have moved to longer sleeves or added a cardigan – so it is definitely growing colder.  Soon, I may have to stop journeying to the gym wearing shorts – though seeing lasses wearing even less in the way of leg-covering at the end of last week has sparked the last gasp of my manhood into continued resistance to the lure of long trousers.  In my (admittedly limited) experience, whilst the fairer sex tend to have colder flesh and a greater desire to run the heating when indoors, when outside they seem much better able to resist the cold than we members of the weaker sex.

I, of course, have a long history of wearing shorts all year round.  As a young lad, I tended to fall over quite a lot (some would say that little has changed) and this tended to destroy the knees of my trousers.  Given that trousers do not grow on trees (surely a project there for the genetic engineers among us), for much of my primary school career I was dispatched in shorts right through the depths of the Kentish winters of the 1970s – and in those days, we had proper winters!  For, as my mother quite rightly said, “Your knees will mend the trousers won’t”.

As I approach middle-age – apparently they’ve moved the goalposts and I have yet to arrive (I assume this is linked to the receding retirement age) – I find myself far less reluctant to wear a vest than I did when younger.  I still hate to wear a jumper – I’d rather be cold – so I use the layers approach and I’ve realised the vest can play a useful role as layer no. 1.  As a result of my recent vest-wearing, I have noticed that I seem to have a rather abrasive navel given its ability to erode the inside my vest and deposit the results within’t.  Should I be moisturising more thoroughly?

However, the biggest joy brought by the return of winter is the ability to wear a scarf without appearing overly affected or victimised by that fickle jade, fashion.  I nurture the illusion that I look rather good, raffish even, wearing a scarf.  Readers should feel free to help me to maintain this illusion despite all the evidence.  I suspect early exposure to Tom Baker’s Doctor might have something to do with this, though my own scarves are very modest in both length and colour-scheme compared to his.  The scarf doesn’t really work on the bike, so I’ve had rather more chance to wear it now that I live within walking distance of the city-centre: which is a definitely plus to my new life on the south-coast.

Most love Winter

Or so claimed, the splendidly named, Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore in his poem “Winter”.   This appeared in the volume of odes entitled “The Unknown Eros”, widely considered his finest work,.  From a rather cursory survey of his masterwork, I can tell you that he was no Pam Ayres.  He must also have moved in a rather different social circle to me, as I know of no-one who claims to be enamoured of the season (unless it be for the opportunity to ski – or otherwise slide – at relatively modest cost that it affords).  But, with a name like that, I can forgive him quite a lot!

Still, love it or (more likely) loath it, it has become clear that winter is – or at least its heralds are – upon us.

Yesterday evening, on my way to see (and, perhaps more crucially hear) the Endellion String Quartet, I saw a gritter abroad in the twilight – my first sighting of the season.  Encountering a working gritter in a car can give rise to concerns about damage to your paintwork.  Meet one on a bike and the main concern is having a shovel-full of salt hurled in your face.  Luckily, it wasn’t spraying – and so I didn’t receive my RDA of sodium for the month of October in one go.

This morning, a little after eleven, I was finally forced to admit defeat and turn on the heating for the first time since Spring.  And, to silence any doubters out there, here is photographic ‘proof’ that the heating was running (at least for the few seconds needed to capture the image):

(Seeing the picture, I can’t help thinking that the controls – hidden since Spring – could do with a wipe-down with a damp cloth.)

So, in Fish Towers at least, 20 October 2011 marks the official start of Winter – a bit of a shock coming, as it does, barely two weeks after high summer.  Still, according to the boffins in Bracknell, by Sunday we should be back into late summer warmth.  It’s all very confusing and not just to me!  I have tulips coming up in the front garden – which even given my rather limited knowledge of horticulture, I’m pretty sure is not supposed to happen until Spring.  I’m also still harvesting fresh tomatoes and raspberries, and gathering up vast quantities of fallen leaves.  I feel like I’m living in a pizza or maybe a violin concerto: within the grounds of Fish Towers I seem to be enjoying the four seasons – all at the same time!