Walking in the Cold and Walking in a Hail Storm

I needed my horse and sleigh.

I needed my horse and sleigh.

It has been a cold winter, with record lows.

The  temperature was in the double digits, so I got up from under my flannel sheets, three comforters, a blanket, and quilt and took a walk.  The wind was 20 or 30 miles per hour, and no one was walking except me, but I struggled on to the library.  I decided to thaw out before checking out my books, so I went to the comfortable chairs next to the fireplace…and no fire.

It is a fake fireplace, with an electric fire, and I have sweated next to it in summer.  Now it seemed to be broken.

So I sat in the freezing cold next to a window (all the other seats were taken) and read something.  Then a homeless person sat down next to me.  Although the library is a haven for the homeless, and I want them to stay warm, I like to have a chair or two between us.   (N.B. I can diagnose all my friends’ mental problems from years of watching daytime TV with my mother so that they don’t become homeless.  The medicine is Blue Bunny malt cups or cookies from the Hy-Vee.)

Then I lost a mitten.  I trailed all over the library, looking for my mitten.  “Have you seen a mitten?”  I asked the check-out person.  He had not seen a mitten.  Back to the chair, and the homeless person was gone, but no mitten.  Back to the shelves, and there was my mitten.

I couldn’t have ventured into the cold without two mittens. I would have called a taxi, I don’t have a phone (I don’t believe in cell phones except for the elderly and the disabled), there are no more pay phones, I would have had to use a librarian’s phone, and I needed the exercise.

Walking was easier.

Really cold, though.

AND I WALKED IN A HAIL STORM.  Today I was absorbed in my book, D. J. Taylor’s Kept, and not thinking about walking.  Then I took a break to check my email, and discovered the temperature was 47.  I donned my spring coat and went for a walk.

It didn’t feel like 47.  I figured the temperature was gradually dropping.  Then it became windy, and it was cold, but I decided I was fine.  Then suddenly small pellets of hail were landing on me and all around me.  I WAS WALKING IN A HAIL STORM.

What should I do?  Shelter on someone’s porch?

I walked, and it was damned cold.

My face was frozen.

I was very annoyed, because the weather report had said 0% chance of precipitation.

Suddenly there was my husband in a car.  He had come out looking for me.  I was never so glad to get in a car.   (Thank you!)  He dropped me off before he went to the store to get healthy foods beginning with “c”:  cauliflower, kale (whoops, that’s a k!), carrots, Diet Coca-cola… oops, that last isn’t healthy.

Winter:  Who needs it?

How to Get Warm & Reading D. J. Taylor’s Bright Young People

It's not exactly Currier & Ives here.

It’s not exactly Currier & Ives here.

“It’s cold,” he said.

He had been outside at 6 a.m. How cold could it be at 1 p.m.?  The internet said 20.  I wore my warmest coat.  I wore a scarf, gloves, a hat, my hood, and my old Timberlake boots. You can’t get much warmer than that.  And I still couldn’t get warm.

My coat probably weighs 10 pounds, my boots five.  With every step I felt as though I were wearing ankle weights.

Surely I would warm up if I kept going.

Stopped at the Little Free Library.  There was a copy of Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies.  I already have it on my e-reader.  There was my copy of D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow.  Nobody wants to read that.  There is a copy of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower.  Should I want to read that?  I know I will never read that.

My face was so cold.  It felt dry and stretched.  It’s wrecked anyway.  Bicycling long distances in the sun ruins your skin.

But, you know, who cares?  Some of the bicyclists are too drunk to notice:  they stop at all the pubs on the trail.

Keep moving, keep  moving.  I felt worse and worse.  There was nobody outside.  It was just too cold.   I saw one person with a big dog.  I hopped into the street so there would be plenty of room for the dog.  Sometimes big dogs on narrow sidewalks make me nervous.

Then I got home and coughed pathetically.  Went to bed with two boxes of Kleenex.  Can’t face Cold-eze or cold medicine yet.  Am drinking coffee instead of tea (probably a bad idea).

Bright Young People d.J. taylorAND HERE’S WHAT TO READ WHEN YOU’RE SICK.  I am reading D. J. Taylor’s Bright Young People:  The Lost Generation of the Jazz Age, a brilliant nonfiction book about the London socialites of the ’20s, among them Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford, Michael Arlen, etc. Since I usually read fiction, I am most familiar with them as characters in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies or Michael Arlen’s collection of stories, These Charming People.

Taylor is a versatile, entertaining biographer, critic, and novelist, and makes this nonfiction book as interesting as a novel.   A few months ago I read his novel The Windsor Faction (wrote about it here and it makes my “Best of 2013” list on the sidebar)  and interviewed him (here).

I’ll  leave you with a quote from Bright Young People.

Some Bright Young People became successful writers, journalists or artists, while others plumbed the depths of drink, drugs and disappointment.  They were much written about and much misrepresented.  At an early stage their behavior acquired a generational focus, to the point where they were assumed to reflect the attitudes of thousands of people who barely knew they existed.  In the end, as the social historian Alan Jenkins noted, the words “Bright Young People” became a label for all the young in Britain who did anything unusual at all.  Given that many of the Bright Young People were artists, albeit sometimes in very minor and inconsequential ways, their spoor can be tracked across vast acreages of British cultural life.  Their style–brisk, affected, outwardly impersonal, inwardly often deeply vulnerable–influenced a host of descendants who knew noting of their ancestry, and their echoes can be found in the pages of books written long after the movement’s original members were gone.

Gorp and Iced Tea Breakdown

Sorry, I had to save myself!

I had to save myself, needless to say.

My plan:  four miles. I walk four miles often.  It is nothing. Sometimes I take 30-mile bike rides.  I took a 40-mile ride last weekend.  Sometimes I crash in the middle of a ride and lie down on a picnic table.

But I don’t crash on walks.

After a couple of miles I felt dizzy, thirsty.  I did not have a bottle of water with me.

I walked.  I kept walking.  What on earth…?  It wasn’t that hot.   This had never happened to me.

Put your back into it, lass.

I really had to sit down.

I walked very, very slowly toward the church on the corner.  I sat on the steps.  I thought I might faint.  I put my head down.  I pep-talked myself.  If you just wait a few more minutes…then you’ll get up….  Then you’ll take a shortcut home.

Woman in a  gorp breakdown.

Woman in a gorp breakdown.

The shortest route home was a busy street. Go!  Do it!  It would take me past the health food store, where I would eat and drink and feel well again.

I walked very, very, very slowly. I passed a bar.  BEST NACHOS IN THE CITY, the sign said.  I considered buying a bag of chips, but that was not quite what I needed.

Okay, one block, two blocks, a long block…  At the health food store I bought gorp and a bottle of iced tea.  It was very expensive.   This is why I don’t buy health food.

Outside I sat down on the sidewalk. My hair was plastered down with sweat. My shirt was damp with sweat.  I pulled the iced tea bottle out of the bag and realized I LOOK LIKE A HOMELESS PERSON. I drank the tea.  I ate gorp like a starving person.  I began to feel myself renewing.

After 10 minutes I felt fine and walked home.  My glucose was back!  Or something.

I should have water and gorp with me at all times.