I’m sitting here, wearing a pair of merino long johns, under a pair of thermal leggings, a t-shirt, a thermal shirt, a gigantic men’s hoodie, a pair of Phil’s hiking socks, and my slippers, and I am cold. The heat is on, the house is clearly warm, and yet, I am freezing. It’s a bitterly cold night, the Beeb informs me, with a temperature of 0 centigrade expected, or an imperial 32F.
The shades of my hardy Eastern European peasant ancestors laugh at me. These are the people who moved across the Atlantic, a hundred-odd years ago, got to Ellis Island, and kept going, until they landed in the upper midwest, where they looked around and said, yes, this place is covered in snow for half the year, and infested with mosquitoes the other half, we’ll stay here. I moved in the opposite direction across the Atlantic going on for two decades ago, and spent much of that time not even owning a proper winter coat, because low 30s? Pshaw. Put on a sweater and stop whining. You should try living in the snow belt. This thin dusting of white stuff? You ought to try lake effect snow. You can get a couple of feet of that stuff in a couple of hours. I join my ancestors in laughing at you.
And then I lost an improbably huge amount of weight, and my body’s internal thermostat never recovered from the shock, and here I am, with an impressive collection of winter coats, and a stupid furry hat with cat ears on it, and on occasion still so cold I pray for hot flashes. Sadly, they usually arrive in the middle of the night, when I am tucked cosily into bed, wearing multiple layers of clothing, and under at least two duvets, not when I’m trudging up the hill to Sainsbury’s, into an icy gale. At least I didn’t forget how to walk on black ice. (Slowly, cautiously, fall anyway.)
There was one week in January, the winter before I moved over here, where the temperature never got above zero. Ever. It never got above -10 or so, in fact. And yet, I went to work. I knocked a foot of snow off my car, chiselled off the ice – -not even wearing gloves! — and drove to work every day. (That part about the gloves was stupid, but I was fine, once I got in my car.) A day like this in January was a gift. People took smoke breaks at work, without even bothering to put on their coats. Over here, we’re all dying, except for those daft girls who are running around without coats, so everybody can see their cute outfits. And their blue arms and legs. (That’s the only possible explanation I can come up with, as it’s the kind of mad thing I would’ve done in my own youth.) I don’t want to get fat again, but I sure as hell wouldn’t mind feeling that well-insulated.
I have finally come to know, really, intimately, know the feeling of a regionalism Phil introduced me to, the first winter we were married, when he was cold and I was trying to open a window, because the flat felt stuffy and uncomfortably warm to me: nesh. I am nesh, all the way through, almost all the time now, and man, I am sorry for ever doubting such a state could exist, and grateful somebody came up with a single word to describe it.