For the last two years I’ve joined in the #atozchallenge, namely to post every weekday in April using each letter of the alphabet in turn. In 2015 it was places I’d been to, in 2016 it was London themed. This year it is a dictionary of my family, recounting incidents small and large that have taught me lessons down the years, caused me consternation or generally seared themselves into my memory. I hope you enjoy them. To find other bloggers doing the challenge and maybe be inspired yourself, check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge Blog, here.
And in particular my hands. I’m warm blooded, me. Not quite how one friend described her boyfriend when she said he was red hot in bed and really did mean the heat he gave off but I’m definitely on the toasty side of the ambient scale. My feet warm up quickly, I’ve been complimented on the thermal properties of my posterior but drop the temperature by a degree and my hands are for cryogenics not comforting.
This problem goes back a long way. Life in the 1960s wasn’t one of extravagance or unrestrained affluence. We made do and mum mended. When it snowed, and it seemed to snow a lot on the North Downs where we lived until 1969, the Archaeologist and I were as one with pretty much all of North Surrey youth – we took to the nearest slope with our home made toboggan and we slid and slipped.
Mum did her best to keep us warm. We both had a coat and gumboots (wellington boots to one and all) but gloves were categorised as a luxury item so mum improvised. She took a pair of school socks that were so full of holds as to be beyond even her darning skills, sowed a straight line of stitches across the toes and cut off the frayed ends creating an instant pair of woollen mittens.
These weirdy wearables worked okay while they were dry but, after the first run, the snow began to soak them. Small boy excitement hid the cold and later pain while there was another slope to be conquered but as soon as we started for home the truth began to seep into my skin – I was bloody frozen.
By the time we dragged ourselves inside I couldn’t bend my hands. Mum cradled them in her own – warm as a new puppy – and rubbed. I understood then how agony and ecstasy are yin and yang emotions – I experienced both together. My poor hands: they throbbed, they glowed red and they ached, like toothache only body-wide. Or so it seemed.
If they were holed below the water line they pretty much sank into the cold depths with the advent of motor cycling. Things weren’t too bad until I had to take a six month course at the College of Law in Guidford. My accommodation was in a small village of Cranleigh, famous only for being where Eric ‘Slow Hands’ Clapton (if it had been cold hands I’d have hated him but he’s forgiven) lived. My journey each day took me through some of the coldest Surrey countryside and as October gave over to a freezing November so my hands suffered.
As a student I couldn’t afford decent gloves; I had to survive with the hand me downs I had. Each morning I would arrive and park my bike. Some days I couldn’t take the key out of the ignition my fingers were so still. On the worst my hands were so bad that I couldn’t hold a pen for an hour. But the worst thing was the realisation that, however bad getting cold was, getting warm again was infinitely worse.
I often reminisce about my days as a bad boy, in Easy Rider style but the sad truth is I was glad to be shot of the bike by the end. I’ve hankered for another go, some Harley or Triumph which I could afford now as I couldn’t back when. I know there are decent gloves that would keep me warm. And yet, and yet…
So nowadays I pack a pair of gloves in pretty much every coat or jacket – along with poo bags for dog. I know that I’ll be the one to suffer if the temperature drops and however much I try they will freeze. There are some legacies from one’s youth that you can’t avoid and cold hands is mine. Really I’ve got away quite lightly..