Outside the Tube, I was nearly knocked over by the wind. Is Cameron in control of the skies?
Nicholas Lezard's "Down and Out" column.
Just as Samuel L Jackson’s character in Snakes on a Plane eventually wearies of those snakes on that plane and expresses himself in extremely colourful language, so I too have had it with this melon-farming weather in this melon-farming country. Readers of a certain vintage and/or highbrow frame of reference should be told that “melon-farming” is the approved form of words to be used as a substitute for a much, much ruder phrase when it needs to be dubbed for release to a more gentle audience than the one originally intended.
(Talking of bad language, my revelation last week that I stamped on a mouse inspired someone to address me on Twitter with The Rudest Word. I don’t know. A quarter of a century in journalism with many strong opinions delivered along the way and the first time I get called a see-you-next-Tuesday is because I flatten a mouse. I ask you. Let me inform whoever hides behind their chosen pseudonym that (a) I don’t have a back garden to release any mice into and it’s rather patronising to expect that I do, (b) it wouldn’t have done any good if I had, and (c) not only would I gladly flatten Mousie again, for it turns out he is legion, I’ll dance on his grave singing “Hallelujah” when I do.)
Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, the weather. It’s not been so bad in London compared to much of the rest of the land – such snow as we’ve seen has been more like freezing rain, unwilling to settle or do anything much except make people feel miserable. But it is still most unpleasant and, coming at a time when we think winter should really be over by now, has an especially dispiriting effect. Coming out of the Tube at Shepherd’s Bush one evening, I was nearly knocked down by a gust of wind and sleet, and thought: this is the kind of weather you get at the end of November, the kind that makes you think, “Right, autumn’s really over, we’re in for the long haul now.” To get this feeling at the end of March and so subconsciously think that the sun won’t start coming out until June or July, is surprisingly depressing.
When the sun fails to shine when you might reasonably expect it to, you feel robbed: really robbed, as if something precious has been stolen from you – time, perhaps. I have got to that stage of life when I am conscious that I am now on the way out rather than on the way in, and each crappy summer induces a kind of panic, rather in the same way my father used to worry, before 2005, that he’d be dead before we ever retrieved the Ashes. (Although I sometimes wonder whether, if that series had been any more exciting, it might have in fact polished him off for good. It nearly did for me.) And I feel for my children, who live in a house where the radiators, for economic reasons, give off about as much warmth as a dog that has been dead for two hours.
I saw a summer suit for sale in the local charity shop and although the trousers seem to have been made for a fat dwarf, the jacket fitted me as if it had been made to measure in Savile Row. I duly wore it (once the trousers had been fixed) the other day, even though the temperature was hovering around 4° Celsius – relatively warm, then – not just because I wanted to show it off but because I hoped the weather gods would take the hint and let the sun shine the way it so teasingly and pleasingly did for one day a couple of weeks ago, when I was able to sit outside the Duke with a gin and tonic without freezing my balls off.
But it was not to be, as you know. I should have known, too: all cricket fans know about the weather gods and even though we try desperately to propitiate them, deep down we know that they are as snakes on a plane are to Samuel L Jackson, or me to my mouse-loving Twitter person. They are ************* and *****.
It’s not made any better by this wretched, ghastly government, and an opposition so quiet and toothless I wonder whether it’s actually died. Poverty and cold weather go together in a most horribly inevitable way and I had a ghastly thought the other night that Cameron and his gang are actually in control of the skies and the air currents as well, and that making everyone freeze is part of a deliberate ploy to immiserate the less well-off completely, for no other reason except that it pleases them to do so. Rather in the way that we hear that members of the Bullingdon Club these days like to set fire to £50 notes in front of homeless people. Oh, to stamp them out like vermin.