MISSION TO MALVERN
I live in a magical land called Canada. Many stories are told about Canada -- some of them are true, and some of them aren't.
One thing that is true about Canada is that, during the winter, it is evil.
Evil like Mars.
Like bacon and stoned gay marriage, you'd think that snow would be a familiar concept to most Canadians, along with an associated understanding of its famous properties (coldness, and so on).
At least, not in Toronto -- the biggest, busiest, most super-American megalopolis Canda has to offer.
Now, Torontonians aren't on the whole a very beautiful bunch, but they're paid like princes by their important jobs. So, they tend to overcompensate for the fact that they don't look like people from Montreal by buying scads of chic and showy apparel. And they are reluctant to give up their pretensions, even when nature attacks.
Do you hear that fell howl? That's nature attacking. The windows groan with frost. It is positively arctic outside.
I see them shiver in the subway. I hear them moan on the streetcorners. They huddle in the bus shelters, and complain to one another in stores. "It's freaking cold out!" they say. "I'm dying!"
Women in short skirts and thin hose clutch their elegantly gloved hands to their burning cold faces, a feeble shield against the hungry wind. Men in flowing overcoats wrap their decorative scarves a wind tighter against their necks, their heads covered only with styling gel and ice. "Holy crap!" they tell the drivers of their cabs.
The drivers smile and shrug. As I walk by, we share a look. The taxicab driver and I look equally ridiculous, and we are also equally warm. I push through the slush at the side of the road, continuing my steady, cosy march home...
I am like a space-man.
I am wearing grey thermal underwear leggings, and brown fluffy socks. I have on a black Sex Pistols T-shirt, featuring the Queen. Over this, thick brown trousers and big brown boots. Also, a brown long-sleeved shirt. Next, a giant blue parka fringed around the hood with the fur of dead foxes. Gloves, woolen, mitten-style with detachable ends for finger-access. Scarf, dark green, Doctor Who length, wound eight times. To protect my face: a beard, and wide sunglasses. This is all topped off by a black, Soviet-style ear-flapped hat of synthetic fur.
I look like a total idiot.
But I am warm, warm, warm. Envy my sweat, suckers.
I trudge on, waddling like the Michelin Man. An Indian woman in an SUV slides gracefully sideways along the road, silently plowing down a fence and embedding herself in a snowbank with a gentle whisssss! sound. Another car skiis by, and I realise that this is a poor corner to tarry at. For some incomprehensible reason, many Canadians don't know how to drive in snow, either.
A fresh flurry starts, dotting my sunglasses with fat stars.
I put up my hood. My breath steams out of the narrow, funnel-like end. It is like a fur-ringed periscope, with laundry going on down below. "Foo!" I say, forcing out a jet of cloudy breath and watching it catch in ice crystals on the fox fur.
My peripheral vision destroyed, I am forced to point my head where I want to look, like Michael Keaton in Batman. I scamper across the street, in superstituous fear of predatory cars hiding just beyond the edges of my hood.
Dogs bark. I have been detected. I open and door and step inside.
"What it like out?" calls my wife.
"Tropical," I report, peeling off my hood in a haze of hot steam. "Wow," I add, after a moment's inspection. "My scarf smells like breath."
My baby walks up and offers me a limp balloon.
"Ball," she says.
And the world keeps spinning on and on. And the world keeps spinning on.