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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Shayfer


Right now I'm a million miles away from the pungent smoke, welcome crackle and hypnotic blaze of a camp fire on an Autumn evening as the nights draw in.

There's been a fall of snow on the weekend. In the balmy south-east, settled snow is something of a novelty and some of us play in it like children on Christmas morning. I guess that's just one of the reasons northerners call us "soft southern bastards."

Now, of course, it has transformed overnight into a hard, unfluffy substance which, if made into a snowball, is liable to take your eye out. The paths, those not salted, are no more than sheets of ice.

Here in the park, the January sun attempts to gift us with its warmth - and fails. An exuberant dog leaps onto the iced path and almost careens into the bitterly cold depths of the freezing pond. People are glad to be out but are markedly dressed like Innuit on an Arctic afternoon. Toddlers look confused. The gulls cry out for food, merciless in their relentless scavenging.

And me? I sit on a bench with a flask of generously rum-laced coffee and a Neil Oliver book on those big, bad norsemen, the Vikings. The weak January sunshine is dazzling on the lethal sheets of ice and I try to convince myself it's better to be out than in.

I'm an expert at self-delusion.

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