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17 February 2021

I never expected to see snow in Brighton but it’s here – aimless and not settling. Sound familiar?

I feel we all are in our own versions of Waiting for Godot. Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful. 

By Nicholas Lezard

Having lived here on and off for a couple of years, I have become quietly confident that it never snows in Brighton. A few days ago someone dear to me sent a video of what looked like a Narnian blizzard in the DH7 postal district (that’s the north-east, County Durham to you). “Is it snowing where you are?” she asked.

“It never snows in Brighton,” I said. “Something to do with the sea. And being in the south.” Well, guess what I’m looking at now. One should never extrapolate from incomplete data. I am reminded of the wonderfully nerdy joke about the astronomer, the physicist and the mathematician on a train together who, once over the Scottish border, see a brown cow in a field. It begins with the astronomer (I think) saying “Wow, in Scotland all the cows are brown,” and ends with the mathematician wearily saying, “There is, in Scotland, at least one cow, at least one side of which is brown.” Well, I think it’s funny.

[See also: A reader accuses me of banality. I object to being singled out like that: aren’t we all banal now?]

Anyway, here I am, looking at snow. It’s pretty rubbish snow, actually. There’s a fair amount of it but it’s just faffing around, not settling or doing anything meaningful, like the flakes are at a party where everyone’s milling around trying and failing to find anyone interesting to talk to. (I’m trying to think of the last party I went to. If you don’t count book launches I think you have to go back to 2013, and my 50th birthday.)

I kind of understand how this snow feels. Aimless, not settling. Which I suppose is an odd way to feel when you’re cooped up inside. But I’m not going outside today, except to smoke. Yesterday I went for a walk by the sea and it consisted of 30 minutes of me going “Jesus”. After a while I began to get worried that my ears were going to snap off if I brushed my fingers against them.

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All this discomfort for no settling snow. There had been a sprinkling a few days before, but all it looked like was that someone had sprinkled an unsatisfactory amount of icing sugar on a birthday cake. Not enough even to make a snowmouse. Meanwhile, on goes the heating, and I’m not looking forward to getting my first grown-up heating bill since 2007. Does it cost more to turn it off after a couple of hours, wait for the flat to become too cold and then turn it on again, or just to leave it on all the time?

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Meanwhile, here we all are in our own versions of Waiting for Godot. Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful. My friends Ben and Janine have finally returned from Spain but are self-isolating so I can’t even go for a walk with them. (Not that I’d be going over to see them: they live 30 minutes’ walk away, and I think I’ll wait for spring to do that.)

[See also: I’m not much of a peeping Tom when my fixation is a bearded sexagenarian doing a jigsaw]

 The woman who sent me the video of the snow in County Durham said she’d seen Dominic Cummings jogging along a footpath on Waldridge Fell the weekend after he was sacked and I am inclined to believe her, especially because she said he said “thanks” as she stepped off the path to make way for him. You don’t think of Dominic Cummings being the kind of person who says “thanks”, do you? But it was definitely him. I looked again at her snow video to see if I could see Cummings peeping from behind a tree like Mr Tumnus, but no.

The closest I have got to an encounter with the powerful lately was a disturbingly erotic dream about Carrie Symonds, aka Princess Nut Nuts (yes, I know it’s meant to be “Nut Nut”, but “Nut Nuts” is so much funnier), which would have been even more erotic if the father of her child hadn’t kept interrupting. I resent having terrible politicians living rent-free in my head. I’ve had at least four dreams featuring Donald Trump and really hope I don’t see him again. In one of them I reduced him to tears but I still felt dirty afterwards.

The big thing is the Monday evening “Quiz Night at the Covid Arms”, presided over by Marcus Berkmann, who has hosted more pub quizzes than you’ve had hot dinners. Last week was his 46th lockdown quiz and I have been on the winning team five or maybe six times, even though our team almost always gets 20 out of 20. It’s the tiebreak questions that finish us off, like, “How many cups of coffee were drunk, in total, over all the seasons, by the main characters in Friends?” We put 1,200, which is actually pretty good considering the correct answer is 1,154, but another team got even nearer. (The idea behind Marcus’s tiebreaks is that they are numerical answers that are impossible to guess, and so are a source of bitterness and confusion to many of us, including, especially including, the team I play for.)

And so here I am, going quietly mad. The snow has stopped and the dusk is settling. How’s your week been? 

[See also: Now that Christoph has blown through, perhaps it’s time to spice up the names we give our storms]

This article appears in the 17 Feb 2021 issue of the New Statesman, War against truth