Adrian Sturrock: ‘If you find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, perhaps you could pick up a bottle of wine?’

My wife is hoping that it’s not going to snow tonight, in case she can’t get to work in the morning. I, on the other hand, am hoping that it’s going to snow tonight, in order to ensure that I can’t get to work in the morning. This isn’t because I’m lazy; it’s because I have a low boredom threshold – and because I like snow.

     There’s a word for people who don’t like snow (besides ‘boring’); it’s ‘chionophobia’. ‘Chion is, apparently, Greek for snow. My first reaction when I heard this was, ‘But it doesn’t snow in Greece. Why would they have a word for it?’ But then a friend of mine, who is Greek, pointed out that Greece has its own ski resorts. The subtext to this heads-up was, ‘I can’t believe you’re so ignorant.’ His words were kind; it was his face that gave him away.

     I went on to question how much protection the toga offers in sub-zero temperatures, though I have since found that the average Greek person does not wander around in a toga. I feel cheated and lied to by Hollywood.

* * * * * * * *

Nat keeps alternating between checking online weather reports and peeking through the curtains to see if there is any snow on the ground outside. According to the world of ‘online’, we are currently on Amber Alert; according to the real world, it’s all rather normal out there.

     It’s a strange tradition, this need to guess the weather. It’s like a weird form of gambling addiction, without the opportunity to win cash. If I was the Met Office, I think I’d simplify things by recording one basic message to play on loop: ‘It’s January, you’re in the UK, the weather is likely to be crap. Don’t forget your coat and your scrapie thing for the car.’ There really isn’t much else to it.

     ‘Should I take some extra warm clothes with me in the morning,’ Nat asks, ‘in case I get stranded?’

     I’m guessing this question is mostly rhetorical and that she is merely thinking aloud.

     I pull out a selection of my mountain gear from the back of the wardrobe while she’s in the shower and place it in a pile on her side of the bed.

     ‘Thanks,’ she says, as she returns to the bedroom and packs them into her small rucksack. ‘What are you doing?’ she asks, smiling at me across the room.

     I look up from behind my laptop. ‘I’m researching,’ I say.

     ‘Researching? Researching what?’

     ‘I’m researching at what temperature the human eye freezes.’

     ‘What? Why?’

     ‘I’m curious. It’s quite cold out there.’

     Nat seems to be waiting for a fuller explanation than I’m currently giving.

     ‘It says here that … Oh, that’s disappointing …’

     ‘What is?’

     ‘It says here that our eyes can’t freeze while inside our living body, no matter how low the temperature gets.  Apparently, they’re protected by a series of warm blood vessels and the heat from inside our heads.’

     ‘And this is disappointing because …?’

     ‘Because I was looking for a dramatic fact about cold weather,’ I say. ‘Sometimes, one would just like to believe in at least one good urban myth,’

     ‘Remind me again,’ she says, ‘I married you because …?’

     ‘… I’m lovely. Keep up.’

    She looks at me with her very specific frown. ‘If human eyes don’t freeze because they’re packed tightly against a warm brain, I suggest you don’t venture out until at least spring.’

     ‘Not even your tears would freeze,’ I continue, ignoring her, ‘because of the salt in them.’

     ‘Oh, there’s no worries there,’ she says, ‘there’s no tears in my cold black heart.’

     ‘That was my guess too,’ I say.

* * * * * * * *

I’ve always had a thing about snow. I’ve also always had a thing about chilling at home while everyone else is at work. This could be my lucky week.

     I’ve even gone as far as to make a quick post-it note list of things I’d like to get done during my possible snow-day tomorrow. Why mess around with weather predictions when wishful thinking will do just as well.

     Meanwhile, Nat has trudged down to the shed at the bottom of our garden, in her pyjamas, to fetch our garden spade. ‘In case I’ll need to dig the car out,’ she says, pre-empting my question.

     ‘OK,’ I say.

     She stands the spade up in the hallway, next to her rucksack of emergency clothing. Later, I wander past her Shrine to Winter, and place my mountain trekking boots neatly next to her bag.

     ‘Thank you,’ she says, ‘but I probably won’t need those.’

     ‘Take them anyway,’ I say, ‘And if you do find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, perhaps you could pick up a bottle of wine?’

* * * * * * * *

The next morning, we both get out of bed together and rush over to the window to squint between the blinds.

     ‘Thank god’ says Nat. ‘No snow.’

     ‘Bugger!’ I say.

* * * * * * * *

UPDATE: twenty-four hours later:


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Adrian Sturrock: “I once spent a year in Luton. I think it was a Thursday.”

     ‘I bought you these to show how much I care.’

     ‘I’m allergic to flowers,’ she said.

     ‘I know,’ I said.

     There are a number of ways to say goodbye to your boss. This was mine.

     It wasn’t her who was leaving; it was me. I’d been fired. Turns out there is a limit to the number of times you can tell a superior to go screw themselves, though, to be fair, this wasn’t something that was laid out clearly in the staff handbook.

     I was young back then, and what a more mature person might have described as impetuous. Would I react in the same way today, to the same type of boss? Absolutely.

     The leaving speech she gave at the end of my final day was at best a smattering of lukewarm nothings; arms-length corporate etiquette contrived with a very specific sub-plot that expressed to everyone present that she neither knew nor gave a damn about where I was moving on to next, and that she was pleased I was going.

     In honesty, so was I.    

     When protocol demanded that it was my turn to say a few words, I merely advised her not to forget her umbrella at the end of the day, as it looked like rain and I was concerned that her circuits might rust.

     In the car park, I was caught up to by an out-of-breath guy from I.T. who presented me with a book of poems that his daughter had written. ‘It’s sad to see you go,’ he said, ‘I would like you to have this gift. Thank you for always taking the time to talk with me. It was always a pleasure.’

    ‘Why wouldn’t I,’ I said. You’re one of the good guys.’

    ‘You’d be surprised how many people don’t,’ he said. ‘I’m generally just the man who sorts out people’s I.T. issues.’ And then he reminded me of the time that I emailed I.T. Support for help in undoing the lid on my water bottle.

    ‘You are indeed multi-talented,’ I said. I turned the book over in my hand and smiled at him. ‘And it seems that your daughter is talented too. Thank you.’

    Sajid was the first Muslim I ever met, and is the only face I still remember from those grey days in that grey job. I still have the copy of his daughter’s poetry. I also still have the Happy Eid card he’d given me a few months earlier. At the time, I had no idea what Eid was, and had to look it up when I got home. I felt privileged that he would have thought of me at Eid. This is why I still keep it.

* * * * * * * *

     ‘I think I’d be mortified if I was fired from my job,’ says Nat.

     ‘I was more mortified that I hadn’t fired myself,’ I say.

    ‘Technically, I think you did.’

     I smile. ‘It was the feeling of release that I experienced on my drive home that made me realise that being fired was actually the best thing that could have happened to me. I still remember the adrenalin rush I got as reality began to sink in, as I drove my way out of Luton for the last time.’

    ‘Now, that’s something I can empathise with,’ she says. ‘I once spent a year in Luton. I think it was a Thursday.’

     ‘They even requested that I write a formal letter of resignation,’ I say. ‘How screwed up is that?’

     ‘And how dangerous,’ says Nat. ‘If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the ten years we’ve been together, it’s to never let you get the last word.’

     ‘I’ve noticed that too,’ I say.

     ‘So, what did you write?’

     ‘Something along the lines of, ‘After much consideration, it is with regret that I must inform you that adulthood is not for me. Thank you for the opportunity…’’

     ‘Very grown up,’ says Nat.

     ‘Life’s too important to be taken seriously,’ I say.

     ‘That’s Oscar Wilde,’ says Nat.

     I stand up to answer the doorbell. ‘No, it’s probably just my mum,’ I say.