Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Snow and ’flu, no wonder this is the winter of my discontent

You know, I’m starting to feel my age this week, mainly because of the awful wintry weather we’ve been having.

And living on high ground on the outskirts of Belfast has meant we got more than our fair share of the snow. The minor roads in my neighbourhood either haven’t been gritted, or the snow and ice hasn’t melted away yet, or both. For over a week now we’ve been trapped at home, with supplies running low and patience running out.

I’m really disappointed with the council for not gritting the suburbs: after eight days of non-stop treacherous conditions I’d have thought the gritter could have made a mercy dash in our direction. Or at least distributed some grit or salt so we could sprinkle it on the roads and footpaths ourselves.

I think I’m getting chilblains to be perfectly honest. My toes are all tingly and pink. I’m wearing my dressing gown to bed and then waking up in the middle of the night with a hot flush. The windows and outer walls are streaming with condensation. The central heating has been switched on all week: I’m convinced the boiler was making a funny noise last night. I’ve got mail to post and errands to run but I daren’t risk walking on footpaths that are smoother than a bottle. I’m starting to ration the bread and teabags, even though my husband managed to dig the car out of several inches of frozen snow and ice with a shovel and coax it into life once more. So now here I am, marooned at home with no hopes of getting out for my daily stroll.

Is this what it feels like to be an elderly pensioner, I wonder? Worried about falling and breaking a wrist or an ankle? Worried about running out of food but not wanting to bother anybody by asking them to go to the shops for me? I’m not exactly skint so I can afford to order more home heating oil but if I were living on a strict budget I’d be worried about hypothermia as well. Thank God I was already well stocked with essentials such as ‘toilet tissue’ and toothpaste.

They say this is shaping up to be the coldest winter since 1963. I’d well believe it. I can’t remember a decent summer either. In fact for the last two summers there was barely any sunshine at all. Just those amazing floods last year and basically the rest of the time it was raining and overcast. What are we to do? Erect a giant bubble over NI and shine artificial sunlight down on ourselves in the manner of some sci-fi fantasy? Or just scale down the idea to create dozens of bubble-neighbourhoods? Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to head out the door in flip-flops and a T-shirt, sunglasses and an ice-lolly in your hand?

I used to love the winter. I used to long for September each year and the evenings drawing in and the Christmas adverts on the telly. I used to love the long overcoats and the woolly hats, and thoughts of Christmas trees and fairy lights and Happy New Year.

But I’m afraid my love affair with winter is well and truly over. I now hate the entire season. I had the flu for three weeks in December, peaking on Christmas Day itself with a high fever. I’m fed up drying down the windows every morning and I’m fed up having to put on a coat and gloves every night to put my household odds and ends in the recycling boxes. I’m fed up with the cost of Christmas and, most of all, I’m fed up with the blasted snow.

There’s not a lot to do in the suburbs at the best of times but at least I could go for a brisk walk and a potter round the shops, and maybe have a coffee or lunch with a pal. Now I feel like I’m about 95, peering out at the cars inching past my window and thinking to myself, oops, better not risk it today. Might take a tumble and wind up in A&E. How we take our freedom for granted until it isn’t there any more.

At least I wasn’t one of those poor souls who had to be rescued off a fog-bound, snow-bound motorway this week. Can you imagine it? Shivering violently in your car, afraid to stay put and afraid to venture out into the unknown? Dying for a cup of piping hot tea, and possibly the loo as well: oh dear, I really am turning into a complete and utter wimp. Roll on the summer.

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