“Cool” memories

Stillwater, 1100/22nd December 2021

Christmas trees at the Block House in Stillwater, NY.

A tradition which started in 2016

Birds on wires, tradition since the early 1800’s.

How do they decide who sits below?

Canada geese in the field at a sod farm..hundreds of them.

At my “final” medical appointment of 2021, I was persuaded that a repeat of the previous injection might be worthwhile.

So, being the jolly good sport that I am, I said “Sure”.

Which meant this morning having to rise at an ungodly and dark hour.

In turn, this guaranteed that my brain declined to switch off until some time after 0330.


For once, we managed to arrive at the clinic with only minutes to spare.

This owing to the fact that some bloke had contrived to run his pick-up truck off the road and insert it into the adjacent woods.

Which was why a police car had turned onto the road behind us, cramping Grant’s normal speedy pace.

The man was standing by his truck, all in one piece with no evidence of injury. Except to the truck.

Grant said “Texting. I’m sure he was texting!”

Minding my own business in the passenger seat, I was concentrating on my iPhone.

Grant had asked what was the symbol for salt.

Why did we need to know this at 0730 on a Wednesday morning? Presumably being sandwiched between a cop car and salt truck had something to do with it, although I didn’t ask what Grant proposed to do with the information.

Once upon a time we probably knew the answer but these days it’s easier just to ask Google.

Then I became fascinated by all the names of other elements I’d never even heard of and squinted at those until I began to feel queasy again.

Last night’s humble vegetarian supper had not sat well.

So I retired the phone and the episodic tables and contemplated a very misty morning.

Such mornings do have their appeal, of course.

This sort of weather always reminds me of the winter that I was sent back to boarding school in England, after 6 years in Asia.

The winter of 1962-63, known as The Big Freeze.

One of the coldest on record. A fine time to take up residence in an unheated attic dormitory.

There have been plenty of times since, when in terms of actual temperature, I have experienced more frigid cold, sometimes but certainly not always under my own initiative.

Waiting in the staff lot at JFK, waiting for the B2 bus, in a howling blizzard with temperature well below freezing, was not one of those times.

Yet, when I asked myself the question: “what was the coldest you ever remember feeling?” I did not have to ponder the matter.

All these years later, I cannot for certain name the station. I believe it may have been Charing Cross but it hardly matters. They would all have been the same.

There was a school holiday and I had been released from the frigid Devon boarding school. My brother Peter was working in London and instructed me to meet him at whatever station it was so we could travel together to his home in Bexley.

Let us say there was a communications failure.

As always, I was lumbered with my suitcase that never weighed less than 25kg, bearing in mind such things in those days did not have wheels.

Therefore I struggled up and down from numerous platforms and sets of steps to arrive at what I believed was the correct rendezvous.

Where I waited and waited…

There is surely nowhere colder than a British train station on a cold, wet, drafty and dark winter’s night.

The nose began to drip but my hands had no feeling, so extracting a handkerchief was impossible and I had to resort to sniffing. As if I didn’t feel gormless enough, standing there like a big twit.

Couldn’t walk about because of the perishing suitcase and besides my feet were frozen to the ground.

And for sure if I had left the spot for a nano-second, that’s when my bro’ would have turned up.

Which inevitably, he did, looking a bit disgruntled and we caught a train to Bexley.

My teeth still chatter when I think about it.

7 thoughts on ““Cool” memories

      1. I think many people still talk of British Rail although it ceased to be in November 1997. Pick any bit of National Rail, Railtrack, EWS, Freightliner, or any of the train operating franchises and that may partly explain why they are in such a mess!

  1. There is – and never will be – anything colder than a British time back in the day when the cold and damp froze your bones. Indoors the fire burned your front while your back chilled and ice formed on the bedroom window, the eiderdown slid off and the hot water bottle went cold.

    And outside waiting anywhere in a school uniform with cold damp chilling your bones and anxiety gnawing your soul. I feel it.

    Makes going out now in truly freezing temperatures a walk in the tropics.

    1. Yes to everything you’ve said. In the dorm rooms the sinks were frozen sometimes. And my dear Grandpa’s old cottage with unheated bathroom….well I know you remember that delight. Even better was the smelly outhouse at Grandma’s old home where you used old newspaper. These modern folk don’t know what they missed!

  2. Well, just looking at your pictures make me cold! I remember a few cold nights during our hiking and camping weekends, but it seems nothing comes close to the British railway stations 😉.

Leave a Reply