Turn­ing up the tem­per­a­ture in a coun­try town

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Puzzles - Fiona O’Connell

IT’S likely that my city slicker friend, Vanessa, will blow out her birth­day can­dles to­day, wish­ing she were do­ing so in the coun­try. For this win­ter baby of­ten waxes lyri­cal about up­ping sticks to live the good life.

She might change her mind if she knew that the good life could also be the teeth chat­ter­ing with cold life. For cities seem warmer, what with crowds, lights, and spend­ing so much time go­ing from one heated in­te­rior to an­other.

Ru­ral life ex­poses you more to the el­e­ments, even in a coun­try town. For the houses and shops, churches and schools, are sur­rounded by open coun­try­side, with big skies and fewer bar­ri­ers against the wind and rain.

Or maybe the cold seems colder be­cause you no­tice the sea­sonal change to na­ture; driv­ing down coun­try roads lined by bare trees bereft of leaves, a few strag­glers shiv­er­ing on spiky branches. Mist lies heavy over land that can breathe — with the down­side of the world be­com­ing blurred, as if viewed through a fogged-up win­dow. The empti­ness is ac­cen­tu­ated by si­lence. Though the vol­ume cranks up in the heart of town, for there’s noth­ing muted about the weekly coun­try mar­ket — where not ev­ery­one has an is­sue with icy weather.

Like our res­i­dent cold-lov­ing Kiwi, Les­lie, who is at the ta­ble with the cash box, tick­ing off items sold next to the rel­e­vant trader’s name. She was beam­ing from one frosty red cheek to the other, that Siberian Sat­ur­day — a cheery con­trast to her melt­ing hot mis­ery dur­ing last sum­mer’s heat­wave.

“You can’t do any­thing in the heat,” pipes up Mar­ian, who is sit­ting next to her. As one of the pil­lars of this mar­ket of en­ter­pris­ing self­s­tarters, that wouldn’t do.

We grow quite heated, ex­press­ing our pref­er­ence for plum­met­ing tem­per­a­tures and hor­ror of hu­mid­ity. Un­til it oc­curs to me that Paddy prob­a­bly never in­vaded other coun­tries be­cause we couldn’t stand their clammy cli­mates.

“There’s noth­ing nicer than the sun shin­ing in a blue sky on a crisp cold day,” Mar­ian says. “My dad loved frost and so do I. It makes ev­ery­thing look beau­ti­ful.”

Thank­fully, Jack Frost still leaves room for Jack the Lad to spice things up. For what brings me to a stand­still, as I’m pass­ing the butch­ers on my way home, isn’t the sight of John chop­ping up some­one’s leg. It’s the fact that the door is open, as usual, “buy lo­cal meat” chalked on the black­board there. Yet there’s no sign of his wool hat.

“I don’t need it,” John de­clares.

“But you do,” the reck­less veg­e­tar­ian con­tra­dicts the cleaver-wield­ing butcher. “It’s freez­ing.”

“Ah, but you see,” John smiles, show­ing all his white teeth, “I had a great start to the day that’s warmed me right through.”

Turns out he’s not talk­ing about ther­mals. He leans across the wooden slab and his blue eyes sparkle. “Let’s say I had a cud­dle in the bed this morn­ing.”

He roars with glee. And why wouldn’t he? For no city heat­ing sys­tem can hold a can­dle to a red-hot ru­ral ro­mance.

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