BRENDA’S Unfortunate Record Of The Week #15


I can hear the cat protesting. The sun is shining and he’s only been out 2 minutes but he’s letting me know it’s time to come in. I run downstairs to open the door. He tears up the stairs, into the house, all the way making these wee chirping meows which sound a lot like, ‘FFS’. It is freezing. The temperature’s not due to crawl above 4 degrees and that’s later on this afternoon. Right now my weather app’s telling me we’re hovering a cool zero. 

People always figure I should be accustomed to chilly climes, being Canadian and all. I try to explain that I’m from Vancouver where winter’s aren’t exactly representative of the rest of the country and that things are different here – i.e. living in old, damp & draughty buildings. Besides I left when I was 14. 

That’s not to say I didn’t experience some sub-sub-zero conditions. My dad lives in Montreal and I distinctly remember the first blast of arctic air – one so cold your nostrils stick together and tears of shock freeze to your cheek. It’s next level. Things look different too. Hazy & washed out, an icy film bleaching away all but the blandest of colour. At least that’s how I remember it. 

There was one particularly frigid visit when I was around 13 years old. With the wind, the temperature plummeted to minus 60. Normally you wouldn’t go out but i was a restless teen. Wandering the miles of subterranean shopping on my own seemed a better prospect than sitting bored in suburbia. My dad must’ve taken the car to work and for some reason the bus wasn’t an option so my step-mum bundled me up in her warmest fur coat and off I went, resolute. The walk to the metro was around 15 minutes and involved crossing various motorways. I have never worn so many layers. Long pelt hanging heavy around my ankles, each movement felt forced and deliberate. By the time I’d made it over the last causeway my whole body ached. The wind had cut through to the bones. I clambered over the roadside barrier and fell into a bank of snow. Through the tower blocks, the icy Saint Laurence looked silent and still. On the other side of the river I could just about make out the distinct shape of the Olympic Stadium, shrouded in a misty, frozen veil. I felt like the last living person on earth, like I could just curl up and fall asleep forever. 

I don’t actually know how I got to the station but I obviously mustered up some will to live. The next thing I remember I was struggling to push open the heavy metal doors. A stranger helped. I stumbled into the building and the blast of heat nearly knocked me to the floor. A dizzy b-line got me to the ladies where I threw myself into a cubical and vomited my guts out. By the time I emerged I was feeling better. Looking into the mirror I wiped the sick off my face, touched up my make-up and ensured there were no remnants on the weighty hide before heading down to the metro. 

Another memory is visiting my favourite second hand shop at the bottom of St Laurent. The street descended steeply towards St Catherine’s and even though it must’ve warmed up a bit (I definitely wasn’t wearing my step-mum’s fur) a thick layer of ice covered covered the pavement. I stepped out of the store and my feet slid out from beneath me. Baff! Flat on the arse. Every time I tried to get up my smooth-soled boots refused to grip. I normally had a manoeuvre for this – feet bent, you’d dig in the edges and move along sideways, but this was just too sharp an incline. I managed to slide over to a lamp-post and pull myself to my feet, quivering arms the only things keeping me steady. Looking down the road I evaluated the situation. There was only one way. Making sure no one was around, I sat myself onto the freezing sidewalk and proceeded to bum-slide down the hill.

A few days later my dad was driving me to the train station. I was going to New York & had changed into my beloved steel-toed combat boots. Despite the heat blasting in the car, my toes ached in pain. Daniel was unsympathetic – it served me right for wearing such inappropriate footwear. I remember crying, ‘Why do people live here?! How come there’s a city in such an inhospitable climate?!’ 

The few times a year we actually experience freezing temperatures in London I try to spare a thought to my Canadian compadres. A few days ago even Vancouver suffered an arctic blast so sever they were playing ice hockey in the streets. It might be damp, poorly insulated and draughty, but over here, at least we can trust our feet to stay on the ground (well, for the most part – at least literally. Metaphorically is another issue). 

Anyway …… this week’s musical offering is sweet little number from Francoise Hardy. Hopefully it will warm the winter cockles. Happy New Year!    


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