This has got to be my least favourite time of the year. I hate the cold. Yes, actually hate it. It’s not a case of disliking it or preferring it to be warm or not being happy about it. Yes, I hate the cold.
I suppose, looking on the bright side, at least I can say I’m not living in Norway or Greenland or even Iceland but then again, it’s only a matter of 849 miles from the UK to Iceland. No wonder I’m cold. It would be nice if I could hibernate like a hedgehog. Have a good feed and then curl up in some nice, cosy spot and wake up in the Spring. I can just imagine waking up having slept through the winter. I’d have a long hot shower and then have breakfast out in the garden, perhaps cook some bacon and eggs and then just sit back and check my emails and see what has been happening while I’ve been away.
Anyway, back to reality and I’ll just pop the fan heater on for a few minutes while I go and load up the coal scuttle so I can light the fire.
We are off to Lanzarote in January and just thinking about it brings on a quick daydream: I’m over in Lanzarote and the temperature is a nice 70F. The pool is perhaps a little chilly but I jump in and after a few lengths I get out, slump into my deckchair and relax while the sun dries my body. I’ve got a book not far away for when I’m ready to read and I’m looking forward to some fresh salad and a barbecue later. Of course, we might even be walking down to the marina and our favourite tapas bar and partaking of a glass or two of red wine.
Back to reality again and excuse me while I pop out and chop some more wood for the fire. I put the kettle on and switch on the TV. I’m in the mood for an old black and white classic British film and what does BBC2 have to offer? Scott of the Antarctic!
Captain Scott planned to make an expedition to the north pole but then changed his mind and went for the south pole. At pretty much the same time Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, decided he also wanted to make the trip so a kind of race began. Who would get to the pole first? Amundsen decided to travel in classic fashion with teams of dogs pulling sledges. Scott decided he would use new mechanical devices, vehicles with caterpillar tracks, all of which broke down in the cold. Scott also used ponies but they were not acclimatised to the cold and fared poorly. Amundsen’s dogs turned out to be the best choice.
Why either of them would want to go to the pole is completely beyond me. All that they found there was a shed load of snow and ice which most people could have predicted anyway.
As we all know, Scott got beaten to the pole by Amundsen. The gallant British explorers then had to face the task of getting back to civilisation, however the weather worsened and the men froze to death in their tent.
Scott of The Antarctic is a sad film although John Mills plays a good part as usual and James Robertson Justice plays a serious role for a change, that of Captain Oates who disappears into the snow after telling his friends that he ‘might be some time.’ Oates perished like his friends but his courageous actions have never been forgotten.
While I’m on the subject of Antarctica, here’s an interesting story. In 1513 an Ottoman Admiral and cartographer called Piri Reis compiled a map of the world. According to Wikipedia the map, not all of which has survived, depicts the western coasts of Europe and north Africa and Brazil with reasonable accuracy. The Canary Islands are also shown as well as Antarctica. Eric Von Daniken mentions the map in his book Chariots of the Gods and claims that extra-terrestrials may have supplied the information for earlier maps on which the Piri Reis’ map was based. Why you might ask? Well, the northern coast of Antarctica was perfectly detailed in the map but how could Reis know this when the coastline of the area is buried under snow and ice?
Anyway, enough of the Antarctic. Time for a quick scan through my emails. What’s this one:
I have to say, I’ve always rather fancied skiing. It looks pretty exciting and I can imagine it might even be a lot of fun. The big problem is that it involves paying money to travel somewhere that is cold and I have to say, straight out, that going to places that are not only cold but colder than where I live is not only wrong, it really must be either illegal or immoral or probably both. Quick on the spot reappraisal: Skiing? I don’t think so!
Right, kettle on and another steaming hot cup of tea coming up. I needed something to warm me up. I had the fire lit and as I settled down with my hot tea I was actually beginning to feel, not completely warm but a bit of a thaw at least. I flipped through the TV channels like the dedicated couch potato I am and what did I find?
Ice Station Zebra.
Ice Station Zebra was not only one of my favourite films but it was also a favourite of billionaire Howard Hughes. He would watch it regularly in his rooms high above Las Vegas and many times when it had finished, he would ask his aides to rewind the film on his projector and show it again.
Rock Hudson stars as the skipper of a submarine sent on a rescue mission to the north pole. Also on board the ship are a mysterious spy duo played by Ernest Borgnine and Patrick McGoohan. When the film was shot, McGoohan was in the middle of filming the TV series The Prisoner and while he was away from the set of the TV show an episode had to be shot without him so the writers dreamed up an installment in which his character Number 6 finds himself in the body of someone else, that of actor Nigel Stock. All of this was engineered for Patrick to star in the film without affecting the production of the TV series.
Ice Station Zebra was based on the novel by Alastair MacLean and it’s a film I’ve always enjoyed despite the cold location.
I piled more coal on the fire but I was still not feeling particularly warm. In fact I was quickly developing various symptoms that were all too familiar: runny nose, feeling cold, slight sore throat, high temperature, clearly a major cold, possibly even serious influenza was on the way. Might as well get out and enjoy myself I thought before being consigned to coughing, spluttering and sneezing, sipping hot lemon and whisky and not wanting to emerge from under the covers. Liz and I decided to visit our local Indian restaurant and join a few of our friends dining there. Obviously, it was going to be cold so I wrapped up well. Shirt, woolly jumper and thick new fleecy coat.
We settled down in the restaurant where I was pleasantly surprised to find the heating was going full blast. Off went the jumper, off went the coat. Poppadoms, onion bhaji and chicken bhuna with pilau rice? Yes, don’t mind if I do.
After some spicy food I finally warmed up. Well, for a little while anyway.