How to keep warm and save fools.

Elvis Smethwick is in bed with boy flu.  He tried to get to London, or indeed anywhere, to join in with a student protest but got soaked in slush by a gritting lorry as it passed the bus stop.  Please do not worry about him, he is wrapped up, in the warm.  His absence will doubtless come as a relief to readers trying to enjoy in translation and struggling with his unique method of spelling.  As the Commons vote makes the University of the Top Shops a looming reality we thought a little light relief from student angst and some timely advice on dealing with the inclement weather currently being enjoyed by much of the Northern hemisphere would be appropriate.  So here is the reader winter service part 1.  How to keep warm and save fools.

1 Don’t go out.
This is obviously the easiest way to stay warm if it is snowing outside, 10 below, total white out, 9 inches deep and still falling or any of that stuff.  This, however, can pose almost as many problems as going out in it.  If your domicile is poorly insulated, inadequately heated and fails to be in any way warmed by the pathetic rays of the weedy winter sun, it can be as cold inside as it is outside, until, of course you venture outside and, standing in the middle of the snow drift, on what used to be the front path, decide it is, really, warmer inside.  So here’s the second handy tip.

2 Go out but come straight back in again.
As you come back in try saying things such as ‘Gosh it’s lovely and warm in here!’  ‘How fortunate I am to live indoors!’  ‘My goodness, lying on this radiator, it’s practically tropical!’
Keep this sort of rubbish up until you feel convinced.

3 Saving the fool.
Looking at the title, which I had so many ideas about last night after the mulled wine, I see I have failed to even mention the fool and I’m on to tip 3.


So, take the clown out with you.  Get him on the drive and pie him, then run back in the house quickly before the custard can freeze.  Have races to see who can get back in first.  Hold ‘threshold jumping’ competitions, which, in themselves, can be really quite warming.  If he has one of those clown cars that fall to bits, hilariously, drive it on to the front drive and run around making silly faces while it self destructs, laugh heartily (in itself quite a warming action) and then jump back indoors exclaiming ‘Wasn’t that fun!  I’m almost hot now!’

I’ve been looking at my notes again.  I think I may have misread what I scrawled last night.  I think I may have intended to write about saving fuels.  Though. to be fair, at this time of year there may be any number of fools to save………… 

Or, if he hasn’t brought his car with him… (and isn’t it amazing when people come to stay, how much stuff they expect you to provide?  Everything from hot water bottles to alcohol, in my experience.  A week of that sort of thing leaves you both muttering in corners (‘How long is this clown staying?’ ‘I thought you said five days.’ ‘It’s been a week already.  How can anyone eat so much cereal and yet be so thin?’)).  If he has failed to provide the car that falls to pieces, you can always run around your own car on the drive while the snow does the destruction for you. (‘I cannot get the key in the lock, it’s absolutely solid.  It’s as if someone poured water over it. Did you wash the car?’ ‘Only a bit.’ ‘What do you mean, only a bit?’ ‘I couldn’t let you pick him up from the station in that, it was filthy.’ ‘Yes but at least filthy with opening doors. What idiot washes a car in a five degree frost?’)

4 Having Wearing a lot ofsex sox.
Fairly obviously a house full of guests tends to restrict marital activities, not least because once they discover where you keep the hot water bottles and the kettle, as they are first into the bathroom, while you tidy up and put the remains of two (‘Count them two, family sized boxes of cereal, that’s in only three days.  That amount would last us a month normally.’ ‘ I know, have you seen how much milk we’re going through?’ ‘Never mind the milk, have you watched the whisky level going down?  I can’t believe how much that clown drinks. It’s at least an inch a day. I thought you said he’d finished with the meetings?’ ‘He said he had.  I thought he meant “Dried out”you know,“graduated”.’  ‘Yes, graduated from ‘trying’ to ‘given up any pretence of trying at all’ In fact I thought I saw him putting gin on his cornflakes yesterday.’) boxes of cereal on a table with a snowy white cloth, freshly ironed linen napkins, the best china and matched cutlery, much of it having to be polished one piece at a time as it’s dredged out of the back of the drawer……….

By the time you’ve done all of that at bedtime, when you’re already exhausted from making bright conversation right through your favourite TV programme, the enterprising guest has snaffled all three hot water bottles, finished the toothpaste, left a gut wrenching smell in a six-inch layer at exactly nose height (‘Yes, sorry about that.  Change of water.  Pwwwup! Whoops, there goes another.  You’ll have to stop feeding me so much.  Pwwwwup!  I don’t normally eat brandy-soaked chocolate macadamia nuts at home.  Pwwwwup!  Whoops, only another two layers of the box to escape by that route, ha ha!’) and succumbed to the sweet embrace of liver-cleansing sleep with a five decibel snore.  The only thing ever likely to penetrate his slumber is the whispered remark from the other side of a wardrobe, wallpaper, a wall, wallpaper on the other side, another wardrobe and the mountain of suitcases, fitness gear and book filled cardboard boxes that normally occupy the once spare bedroom, to whit: ‘Is he asleep yet?’  Which remark will instantly have him at the bedroom door tapping gently and popping a head round to ask ‘If it’s not too much trouble, as I can hear you’re still awake,’ for some hot milk to ‘Settle my tummy.’

So, as any bedroom activity that might get the blood circulating, is out of the question for the foreseeable future, my advice for keeping the feet warm would be lots of sox. Bedsox, ideally fleece.  Normal in-shoe socks.  Knee socks.  Leggings.  Tights.  Fair Isle socks.  Thermal socks.  Opposite sox.  Same sox sox.  Double sox.  Ones with separate toes.  High denier socks.  Thrilling black ones and, of course, your average bog-standard quick grey elasticated top, better- than-bare-feet-or-nothing socks.

5 Exercise in the house.
It’s a little known fact that throughout the nineteen-fifties the average housewife expended as much energy using her labour-saving twin tub washing machine with the separate electric mangle and hose-assisted pump-action, convenient, floor-level emptying outlet as a farm labourer ploughing a three acre field.  Then some fool invented the microwave and lo!  We all gained three stones in weight and went up five sizes in underwear.

This lamentable state of affairs can be addressed through the medium, and, sometimes, large, of exercise.  Running up and down stairs with the laundry (‘Here, you forgot a pillowcase, I’ll throw it down.’ ‘Thanks, how anyone can spill one small mug of hot milk and soak an entire bed, I have no idea.’ ‘He said he was tired after all the conversation during the evening and just dropped off.’ ‘Where is he now?’ ‘Asleep on the sofa, I think.’) and airing sheets by grasping the corners and shaking them vigorously up and down in the living room (‘Oh, sorry, did we wake you?’ ‘Not at all.  I woke up because I was hungry, I think.  Have I missed breakfast?’ ‘No, it’s still on the table.’  ‘I’ll have a bit of that then. By the way, have you got an alternative to that cereal? I don’t like the taste at all, I’m having to force myself to eat it.’)

6 Putting extra insulation in the loft.

I think it’s over there, behind the old suitcases.’
Where?  I can’t see, shine the torch.
I am shining it, I can’t balance on these rafters.  There look. There.
I can only see a box of stuffed toys, a typewriter, two packs of carpet tiles, the old bathroom carpet and look!  I’ve found the Christmas tree!
Two weeks ago, before we went out and bought a new one would have been better timing, I told you it was up here but never mind about that now, just find the spare duvet.
What am I looking for?
I think it’s in a bin bag.  It’ll be in a black dustbin bag.  Or a green dustbin bag.
That’s not much help, everything’s in dustbin bags.  Er, there’s a wasps’ nest.  I think it’s dead.
Don’t bother it and it won’t bother you. Just find the duvet.
There’s a box here.  It says: Double all-new goose feather and down duvet, on the box, I’ll have a look inside.  No, It’s your old hairdryer.  And some shoes.
Can you get down to the bottom of that box?  I seem to remember putting it in there after all.
Shine the torch over here so I can see inside the box.
Whoooah!  Arrgh.  Whoops.  Errr. Oh no.  I’m Okay.  I’m Okay.
Are you all right?
Yes, phew that was close! I’m back on the rafter now but my foot has gone through the ceiling just a bit.  Haven’t we got a bag of left-over plaster up here?
Over there by the chimney.  I can see it.  I’ve also found the duvet, it’s at the bottom of the box under everything else.  I’ll pass it over but be careful, don’t put your foot through the ceiling again.
I didn’t do it for fun.
Here you are.  That clown is the only person I’ve ever heard of being allergic to hypo-allergenic synthetic duvet filling.  When is he leaving?
Soon I hope.  Very soon.  Can you reach the bag of plaster?
Good grief this is heavy.  Now when I pass it, only balance it on the rafters, or we’ll end up re-plastering the whole hall ceiling.  Right, you go down and I’ll hand the duvet and the plaster through the hatch.  I wonder if we have a plastering float anywhere?
Yes I saw it the other day in the garage behind the bicycles…….

7 Eating plenty.

Now is not the time to diet.  It’s important to ingest sufficient food to keep all bodily functions performing smoothly.  An ideal diet would include both fats and vegetables.

It’s my pleasure, no really.  It’s the least I can do, you’ve been so kind to me.  This is a recipe I picked up in Kuala Lumpur, just before the war.  Everybody did it at Christmas, it reminded us of home.  Once the pan is very hot, you put the snake fat in it.  It’s a pity you haven’t got snake fat, I’m sure butter will be fine.  Anyway, a block like this…Whoa!  I’ll put the sprouts in now, you’ll see, it’ll calm down……….There, what did I tell you?  I’ll leave them for a few minutes….Anyway, there we were in what was really the jungle with only this old primus stove to cook on and Stiffy White invented this.  Actually, no, I could be wrong, it might have been Archie Knox.  Or was it Bludger Dickens the Quartermaster?  You know, I can’t remember now.  I think it was Stiffy.  I think.  Or was it Archie?  Do you know I just can’t remember.  It’s funny that, isn’t it?  The things you think you’ll never ever forget and here you are, well you’re not, I am, ha ha, trying to remember fifty years or so later.  Ha!  No it wasn’t.  It wasn’t at all. it was, in fact, Banger Parkins.  Good gracious!  So it was!  You know, you think you’ll never forget…….oh, what’s that funny smell?  Oh, the sprouts are singeing, just a bit, don’t worry, I’ll just flood them with the brandy………………Oh.  Dear.  No.  Put the fire extinguisher away, I’ll just pop this tea towel over it….. that’s what we used to do in Kuala Lumpur……..Whoops. Well maybe now with the fire extinguisher.

That got it all right.  Well done.  Actually now I think of it, it was Pyromaniac Smith who invented it.  Yes, now I remember.  Funny how your mind plays tricks on you like that.  When it went up like that, I just remembered.  I can see his face, clear as day.  Surprised looking chap.  No eyebrows.  You did say you might redecorate in here after the new year, didn’t you?’

8 Wearing lots of clean dry clothing.

Thank you, this is so good of you.  Really you are looking after me.  I do appreciate it.  Yes, if you could just pop this bag of underpants in with everything else.  They might be a bit skidmarked, actually, it’s all those nuts and things.  It’s just as well we didn’t get to eat the sprouts.  Thank you.  Now this pair is a bit bad.  I usually soak them overnight in a bucket.  Yes I should probably have said before Christmas Eve, I just didn’t like to bother you, you seem to be so busy.  Shall I just leave them on the landing?  They do pong a bit. Should I put them in with your laundry, I see you’ve got your cashmere sweater in the laundry hamper, I could just pop them in there until you’ve got time…….? All right, no, that’s fine, if you prefer to do them now, so be it.  Whatever is convenient for you.  Hold them by the waist, it’ll be fine.  Oh, that reminds me.  Socks.  Could you just pop my socks in, please?  Have you got enough room in the machine?  I know, it’s weird how they don’t bend isn’t it?  But they will once they’ve been washed.  Now there’s my dinner jacket.  I need that for the day after tomorrow.  Have you got a dry cleaners open over Christmas, round here, anywhere?’

9 Keep the house warm and well lit.

I am sorry.  I really am very sorry.  I don’t know what else I can say.  I had no idea the Tree candles were electric and that one at the end that had gone out looked so real.  I certainly no idea that once I’d got it lit the flame would spread so quickly up the wires.  Please don’t cry.  It’s Christmas!  Weren’t the fire brigade a cheerful lot?  All laughing and jolly.  I hope you didn’t mind me giving them the last of the brandy, they do such wonderful work, don’t you think?  They’ve saved most of the lounge.  Who thought the sofa would go up so quickly when the tree fell on it?  It’s just as well you’re rid of it.  It was a fire hazard, that sofa.  You know, I feel I’ve done you a favour there.  That was a dangerous thing to have in the house.  It’s pity they had to turn off the electricity but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I don’t mind if you cook the turkey next week when the electricity gets turned back on. It’s funny, isn’t it?  You spent all evening in the kitchen thawing it in the sink and now you’re going to have to freeze it again! Well you could if the freezer………..Cheer up!  I’ll tell you what, I was going to go next week but I’ll stay and we can have Christmas a week late.  See, all’s well that ends well.  Now I’m going to make Christmas lunch, you just sit there, well, on the floor then, and relax and I’ll do the cooking.  Lettuce and tomato sandwiches all right for everyone?’

10 If all else fails hibernate and wait for spring.

Kill him I will bloody do him I will.

Calm down, don’t get wound up, you’ll never get to sleep.

I don’t want to go to sleep. I want to get up and strangle him.

Well you can’t.  Just breathe calmly and soon you’ll fall asleep and then it will be tomorrow and Christmas will be over for another year.

I am not having that clown again next year!  No way!  I would rather move house and not tell him where we’ve gone than have him again next year.  Why can’t he stay with Jimmy and Martha?

They have him for Easter, for a fortnight.

Sue, why doesn’t Sue have him? She’s rattling round in that great big house on the island.

She has him for his summer holidays.  Four weeks.


Oktoberfest.  Five weeks and the first Christmas fair.

I’ll bloody do him, I will.  My feet are freezing.  Still, at least with no kettle for hot water bottles his feet are freezing too.  Ha!

Well not really, he went next door and got them to fill the bottles for him.  He came back with all three bottles, a box of chocolates and a bottle of brandy and disappeared into his room.  I think they felt sorry for him.

Sorry!  Sorry!  Sorry!

Shh!  Don’t shout……..

Tap, tap tap

Ooh, hello.  I see you’re still awake.  Umm, I wonder if I might bother you, my bed is a bit soaked, I think the firemen’s hoses might have penetrated the ceiling when they were quenching the tree.  I wonder if I might bunk up with you?  I hope you don’t mind if I snack a little before I drop off?  I’m a martyr to night starvation.  Fortunately I found this family pack of crisps and some pickled onions. Bunk over………… lovely. Oh this is such a comfy bed.  Pickled onion, anyone?”

hohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohoh – joy to the world.


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