Thursday, February 2nd 2012
Over the last few days, the temperature has plummeted, bringing a cold spell to London. While I know that there are parts of the world where a temperature in double figures below freezing is not unusual, London is not one of those places. If ever the thermometer ventures towards 0° Centigrade here, we feel uncomfortably chilly.
For this reason, I haven’t been out much lately, preferring to stay at home making frequent cups of tea and coffee and giving the heating system a little nudge every now and then. Today, however, I decided I needed to get my hair cut. I peeked around the curtains (in winter we keep them closed because our Georgian window frames are apt to allow too much freedom to cold breezes from outside) and the view was promising: the street was bathed in bright sunlight.
As soon as I stepped outside the door, however, I was hit in the face by an icy blast. It was cold, very cold, very very cold. Bravely, though, I put my best foot forward and strode tigerfully down St John Street to the corner of Rosebery Avenue where my barber has his shop.
I was slightly annoyed to find that the two assistants were people I did not know. I assume that both of the usual barbers had decided to take the day off and had been replaced by agency staff. In my experience, every barber has a different way of working and produces a different result. If you don’t know the barber, then you don’t know how the haircut will turn out. Such things ought not to bother me, perhaps, but they do. I could have put the haircut off for another day but I decided that now I was here, I might as well go through with it. Hair, after all, always grows back.
Afterwards, my instinct was to make a dash for home and brew a warming cup off coffee, but instead, I courageously took a slightly roundabout way back. In the event, I was rather glad I did.
This is because I came upon the fascinating sight of a frozen fountain. Despite the cold, it had been left running and was now encased in ice so that it somewhat resembled one of those bottles that restaurants use as candlesticks, leaving the runnels of wax that have dribbled down the neck as decoration. There was some running water coming out as well, but no more than a rather pitiful trickle.
I stood and admired the fountain for a while, as I was in a slightly sheltered position, and then set off homewards. By the time I reached Myddelton Square, my face was so cold that it was beginning to ache. My mother would have called this weather “bitter” though I think “biting” would be a better world for it. Nonetheless, I stopped again, and took out my camera…
Normally you wouldn’t be able to see St Mark’s Church from this angle because of the trees but at this time of year they are without leaves and the church is only slightly veiled. You can see how bright the sunshine was and how clear the sky: that sky promises a cold night and another cold day tomorrow.
That was enough for me. I put away my camera, and strode determinedly in the direction of home, emitting the occasional expletive at the cold as I went. Reaching home and coming into the warm was a moment of relief and pleasure. And yes, I did make coffee and drank it hot.
As for the haircut, I’ll let Tigger be the judge of that. And it will, after all, grow back. Eventually.