Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Walking in a winter wonderland

You know you're getting old when you get excited about receiving a teapot as a Christmas present. Now admittedly, it is a Rocha. John Rocha teapot – I'd never really considered the idea of designer teapots – so that diminishes something of the image of an elderly spinster sipping tea, knitting a tea cosy and surrounded by contended cats.

Okay, the cats are part of the scene, but I'm no spinster (despite my mother's insistence on always addressing post to me as 'Miss', rather than 'Ms' or simply leaving out a title at all) and I don't knit. Well, not these days, at any rate.

It is fair to point out that My Favourite Things does include "whiskers on kittens", but it doesn't mention slate grey teapots – although "bright copper kettles" make it, and after all, what's the use of a teapot without a kettle?

It's not that I don't like coffee, but I have been drinking more and more tea in recent months and, when my mother asked what I wanted for presents, just days after my old teapot had broken, it seemed a sensible idea.

The kittens seem to like tea too. On their first morning with us, there was nearly a fight to see who could get their head into my mug to drink what was by then rather cold Lady Grey. It was removed from temptation's way, since I don't suppose that caffeine counts as a good supplement to the diet of baby cats.

The teapot was christened this morning, as we sat in bed and cuddled the latest additions to the household.

I received it yesterday, during a brief visit to my parents, who live just beyond Croydon. It's only around 12 miles as the crow flies, but it takes long enough to get there – and yesterday it seemed to take a veritable epoch to get back.

We have been having snow. Very pretty to look at, but the transport system around the capital in particular struggles to cope with wintery conditions. Mild winters for much of the last decade or so have made this situation even worse.

I caught the bus as usual to London Bridge station, and boarded a train. Just before it was due to leave, we were advised to get off, as it wasn't going where it had been scheduled to. A bit of asking around produced the sole explanation that there was "frost on the rails". On that basis, I hopped back onto the diverted train and got off as near to somewhere I knew as possible – East Croydon – and got a cab the rest of the way.

With the inclement weather, we'd already agreed that I wouldn't stay for an evening meal, but when snow started falling in mid afternoon – and sticking on damp ground – it seemed sensible to leave as early as possible. My father returned from taking a funeral at around 4pm, so we scrabbled through the annual gift-giving and then he went to call a cab for me to go to the station, since the older he gets, the less keen he becomes on driving at night – let alone in such weather. No cabs were available.

I said I'd catch a bus – and told him that he didn't need to walk me to the stop. Wrapped up and having had the common sense to wear my Doc Martens, I waddled carefully down the snowy street to the main road and the bus stop. It was the start of the rush hour, but nobody was rushing anywhere. A mere centimetre of snow – much of it already turned to slush on the road itself – had brought chaos. Traffic was hardly moving and, after a good 20 minutes or more, I had yet to see a single bus on either side of the road.

My geeky iPhone came into its own again, with the app for the rail network informing me that trains were still running (and on time) from nearby Wallington station. There seemed to be only one thing for it. I walked. It usually takes about 10 minutes, but that's in good weather. Hobbling along on impacted slush, worrying about falling and breaking my brand new teapot and trying to relax my muscles, it took around 20.

I had five minutes to spare before the next scheduled train to London Bridge. It arrived on time – and I managed to grab a seat. Then, between West Croydon and Norwood, it stopped. After a few minutes, the driver announced that, due to the weather, there was a train tailback all the way into the city.

Initially, he told us that this would delay us by around 45 minutes to an hour. And then, fortunately, we were diverted to Victoria. After that, it should have been plain sailing as I got a can from the station, and waved jauntily – as I always do on that route – at Thomas Thornycroft's statue of Boudicca in her chariot as we turned onto the Embankment. But we had to take another minor diversion after the road was blocked by a road accident. That proved only a brief hiatus in the final leg of this epic journey.

It's a long time since I've had such a snowy adventure. When we lived in Mossley, the top of the town used to get cut off by snow an average of twice each winter. The first time it happened when I was at school just outside Manchester, the bus only got as far as the top road, before being completely engulfed in drifting snow. There were a few of us returning from schools outside the town and a woman marshalled us to walk the rest of the way, taking us into the pub at the top of the town, where we were partly thawed out with hot blackcurrant drinks. By the time I made it home, for my mother to let me in at the front door, I looked like the abominable snowman – my gabardine mac covered in snow. But the only thing that worried me was the time and whether or not I'd missed Top of the Pops. Nearly, but not quite. I was still in time to see David Soul sing his chart topping Don't Give Up on Us at the end of the programme (which dates it as either January or early February 1977).

After that episode, the school would send us Mossley girls home at the first sniff of the white stuff. On another occasion, when no traffic could get up to a nearby farm, my mother sent me on foot, to buy eggs. I tramped up a hill, relishing the deep, pristine snow – and fell part of the way down on the way back. My mother was concerned – but only about the eggs. Which – fortunately for me – were unscathed.

Anyway, I made it back last night in time to catch the Victoria Wood celebration on BBC2. Which was good – at one point on the stationary train, with a loud Afrikanner telling the entire carriage that Sarf Efriken Rayalways would do it better, I was thinking that I'd miss it all.

Once I got home and changed and sat down with a cup of tea, and having said a proper 'hello' to The Queen B, I had to cuddle Loki and Otto, who continue to love cuddles and fuss.

Boudi has been progressing well – and is now spending much more time in the same room as them, watching as though utterly fascinated. She still hisses a bit if they look too much at her, but seems to have decided that they're not being allowed to take over all her home.

Christmas Day, when there's shiny paper aplenty around, could be a riot.


  1. May we see the teapot, please?

  2. I wanted to see a picture of the teapot too!

    Does "Other Half" ever go with you to your parent's house when you visit them? What do your parents think about Other Half?