On the way to the station each morning, I pass an undertaker’s. Funnily enough, it isn’t the shop that makes me lose the will to live, but regular commutes on the Gatwick Express. The undertaker’s is merely a daily reminder that my travels up and down the same stretch of track are ultimately worthless, and that one day we all end up on the same path clutching a one-way ticket to Deathsville. See how commuting instils one with such joy?
But I digress. The undertaker’s window display is always, let’s say, imaginative. Previous exhibits have included a wicker coffin (great if you want to go to heaven in a hamper). Then there was the white cardboard coffin with a patchwork denim lid. Dead groovy. Now, inexplicably, the window boasts a sea of pebbles and a deckchair. So Brighton, so bizarre. No gold handles. No brass nameplate. No explanation. Do the recently deceased simply sit back, admire the view and wait for St Peter the deckchair attendant? Is the message: Life’s a beach, and then you die? Whatever the intention, congratulations to the undertakers who, when it comes to coffins, obviously think outside the box.
I walked into the room, removed my top, slipped off my bra and stood in front of the assistant with a self-conscious smile.
Then I realised I was in Starbucks.
‘Right,’ said the assistant, glancing down at my chest, ‘that’s two flat whites to go, then.’
It’s official. Last December was the coldest since records began. That explains why I’ve been eating for England, look like the Grim Reaper in Ugg boots and am still sharing my bed with a hot-water bottle (and, unfortunately, precious little else). Winter isn’t done with us yet, but we’ve already had more than our fair share of snow. Here are three things to bear in mind about the white stuff:
1. It’s beautiful to look at
2. It’s wonderful if you’re a toddler or a terrier
3. Treat it with caution if it’s yellow
Last winter’s avalanche of snow and ice resulted in our street becoming treacherous underfoot and virtually impassable. The council, in its infinite wisdom, deemed not to grit the street or those surrounding it, choosing only to treat the main highways. Once again I witnessed people (unsuccessfully) re-enacting Dancing On Ice on the rink outside my window, while two vans abandoned mid-pirouette in the middle of the road were the stars of a bizarre open-air ballet.
After almost a week of living in these picturesque but hazardous conditions, we residents had finally had enough. One bright sunny morning, people ventured outside, and like one big chain gang proceeded with grit, salt and shovels to clear the pavements of snow and ice.
Neighbours previously only on nodding terms began talking to each other and there was an air of community spirit and goodwill. Our Regency square looked like a snowy film set and at any moment I expected the men to puff our their chests and burst into a rendition of ‘Who will buy this wonderful morning?’ A few hours later. the street was passable once more and all was well with our world.
So this year, should you find yourself trapped inside because of the snow, and you fancy getting to know the neighbours, grab a shovel and some salt, and hit the road – it’s a great way to break the ice.
Walking through a field in Bramber, West Sussex, recently, I had my Gladiator moment – running my hand along the top of tall grass walking through a field on the South Downs. Oh, you thought I meant I was fighting off big oiled-up blokes in my skirt and sandals in front of a braying crowd. No, that came later, fighting to get to the bar of a pub. In Worthing.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it was summer a few weeks ago. Anxious to get some rare sunshine, I headed for the beach and exposed my brilliant white legs (that’s brilliant white as in the Dulux colour chart, not a complimentary description) to the elements for a few hours.
At home later that evening, my sunburnt feet, ankles and shins were pinky-pinky, burny-burny. Lesson for the day? Even in the heat of the moment, always remember to practise safe socks.