The colour of light through my bedroom curtains this morning was unmistakeable. Definitely snow. Not a great deal of it, but the yard and car park beyond had been given a white sheen. As I wearily glanced outside, the snow was still falling - it's tailed off right now and the sun is breaking through.
Winter has a bit of a problem right now. It doesn't seem to know what sort of weather to throw at us. Wind, rain, snow, bitter cold sunshine, it changes on the hour every hour. Yesterday it started to hail. British hail is somewaht weedy compared to the icy cannon projectiles you get in some parts of the world, but that makes it a mere inconvenience to us Brits. Especially when a hailstone drops straight down the back of your neck, which is what happened to me. There I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I'm squirning uncontrollably in the street and making strange moans of discomfort. People notice this sort of thing, usually when they don't know what caused it.
Crawling Into Work
Another cold morning. TIme then to answer the call of the alarm clock at some ungodly hour of the morning, ignore the protests shouted through the walls of my home, and head down to the bus stop, hopefully fully dressed, for that all important bus to work. I feel so ordinary these days.
The town has an empty clammy feel. A long high street is almost deserted and tinged in an amber glow, aside from some guy who I know will be taking the the same bus as me. He stops at a cash machine to pay for his ticket. He's already paid for his cigarettes which he'll chainsmoke as he waits behind me at the bus station. That's his business of course, it's just that he has the annoying habit exhaling as noisily as possible.
Swindon's bus station is doomed. They're going to build a new one sooner or later but for now the dull brick edifice hiding under the shadow of a disused multi-story car park will do. A few hardy souls hang around here and there, aside from my chainsmoking fellow passenger who queues up behind me every day so I can derive such pleasure fro listening to his cigarette habit.
A van turns up to drop off piles of newspapers. The Devizes bus turns in off the main road. That'll be full of several passengers shortly and probably on its way. Second comes our bus showing 'No Service' as it turns into the bay. The driver gets out and heads into the admin offices for a few minutes. Eventually he'll be back, fussing with the controls of the ungainly double decker, and then allowing us to present travel passes, coins, or desperate pleas for assistance.
Some bus drivers are quick, others aren't. Some struggle with issuing ticketrs, some are incredibly efficient. I see the same people boarding or disembarking at the same stops. No-one says hello. We're all too miserable at having to get out of bed to go to work.
My Day At Work
One of the team leaders goes through the register. After four weeks of persuasion I finally managed to get them to put my name on it.
"Pallets today please"
That means I'll be wandering around the racks finding empty pallets so the guys unoading containers can put more boxes on them. Well that's the next eight hours sorted then.
End Of The Shift
Finally it's time to go home. Suddenly the warehouse comes alive and it's a life or death sruggle to find your bag, wrap up for the cold weather outside, and clock out out as the next shift rushes in desperately trying to arrive on time.
Hard Hat, my chilled out colleague at work, never rushes at any time. He's never frantic, breathless, urgent, or even remotely rushed for any reason whatsoever. At lunchbreaks he sometimes takes a quick nap. When we wait at the bus stop after work, he's guaranteed to amble up the road long after we've settled who's going to be first to board the bus. A couple of times I've mentioned that my life would be complete if I ever saw Hard Hat running for the bus.
My life is complete.
And The Winner Is...
As a fourteen year old I went with the school on a skiing trip to Austria. All a big adventure at that age, made embarrasing by parents giving us last minute advice and emotional send off's. No matter. We negotiated the unfamiliar hazards of a Dan Air flight to Munich and a long coach journey across the border, finally arriving at the resort. One kid got caught smoking and would have been sent home had that not meant a teacher would have cut short their holiday. On the other hand, the much hated geography teacher got hit by a snowball.
By the end of the week, it was time to settle the most important question of all. Who was the best skier? Naturally the dominant lads, the ones good at football, pretty much figured it was one of them, with one character a clear favourite in the stakes. So we gathered on the slopes that last morning for a timed slalom run, not just the school, but every tourist at the site.
I was number five in the running order. With mounting trepidation I watched the others head off. Gate 1.. Gate 2... Gate 3... Then Gate 4, a nasty tight left turn on the brow of a steep drop. Every skier in front of me fell over at that point. Okay. I'll make a note of that. Ready!... Three... Two... One... GO!
I was off. My mind was absolutely focused on the task. I didn't harbour any fantasies of doing well, but I sure as heck was going to try. Then I arrived at Gate 4. Snowplough braking... turn as I reach the edge and lean in.. Oh yes. That's how it's done. I carried on and headed for the finish line quite satisified with my efforts. The austrians at the finish line were yelling at me, urging me on enthusiatically, and somewhat bemused I gave myself a few pushes with the sticks. They were all thumbs up and germanic appraisals, which I failed utterly to understand.
Here's the thing. I was the only skier that day who did not fall over at Gate 4. The only one. I watched amused as each and every contestant did a sort of helpless swan dive off the dip. Not only that, I sat there in disbelief that night when the instructors handed out the certificates. My name wasn't appearing. Until the end. Not only had I beaten my classmates, I'd beaten everyone at the resort, adults as well. Defintely one of my finest moments.