My eyes slowly blink open, as another day gradually comes into focus, like a laptop booting up. Not a good laptop, either; a shit one, from about ten years ago. A laptop which has to stay plugged in to the mains at all times, because the battery is knackered. A laptop which randomly carries out, on average, forty-seven updates each day.
“And that was ‘Should’ve Been Me’, by Naughty Boy, featuring Kyla and Popcaan…..“
The words from my radio alarm clock slowly register, and, as the last clouds of hazy sleep disperse, I quickly hit the ‘off’ button and draw a few conclusions:
- Although I only heard the final few seconds of that song, it was fucking dreadful;
- Of course, any song which ‘features’ more than one other artist (especially artists who sound like a reprimanded teenager, a stripper, and something a cockney would order at the cinema) is always going to be terrible;
- The voice I heard belonged to Nick Grimshaw – the worst thing to come out of Oldham since Yates Wine Lodge;
- That means I still haven’t changed my alarm clock from Radio 1 (I’m nearly 37, it’s getting beyond a joke now);
- This must be a weekday – I need to get to work.
Just as I contemplate maybe. ten. more. minutes, my second alarm clock springs into action, as Isaac contorts his body to somehow kick me square in the nose, despite our faces being level in the bed. I would be impressed by his ability to get a foot up to head height, and to such an angle that he can gain enough momentum to strike me in the face, but stinging tears are filling my eyes through the searing pain, and it’s all I can do not to punch him.
Ok, I’ve deduced it’s a weekday and, judging by my stubble, it must be Friday – the day when I care least about my appearance in the office. The day when I look in the mirror before work and think ‘I’ll shave at the weekend, when I give a shit’. I swing my legs from under the covers, and stagger upright with a zombie-like groan.
Despite the fact none of my colleagues have ever seen me in my underwear – as one might expect in a civilised office environment – I normally endeavour to choose nice boxer shorts for work, just in case circumstances conspire against me, and I am left trouser-less at any point during the day. However, in keeping with my ‘couldn’t give a shit’ Friday attitude, old pants seem to be appropriate this morning.
Having placed one foot clumsily into my aging underwear, I stumble, swear loudly, then fall on my face. It’s only as I return to a state of verticality, swear again for good measure (albeit quieter, this time), and secure my danglies in the now correctly-positioned boxer shorts, that I catch a glimpse of our street through a gap in the curtains: Snow.
NB: Not actually our street
Bugger. I’d heard talk of snow the day before, but I thought it was just the doom-mongers wanting to scare us all – like when the Daily Mail claims that absolutely everything will give you cancer (eating bacon, immigrants, fresh air, swimming with dolphins, not eating bacon…)
My wife stirs in our bed (she’s probably dreaming about baking), so I crouch over her and whisper: ‘Don’t panic, but I’ve just had a look, and it’s at definitely over an inch.’ She then mumbles something derogatory about my penis, but I choose to take the moral high ground (as is so often the case), and grab Isaac out of bed. I need to get the boys fed quickly – with snow like this, there is every chance the shops will be closed for the foreseeable future.
We eat breakfast, erm… fast, and I pack a bag for my wife. I ensure she has essential supplies for the walk to Isaac’s nursery, and then to her school: extra clothing, rope, a rudimentary first aid kit, distress flares, and a hunting knife. We pause as a family by the front door – my wife and I don’t want to alarm the children, so we simply embrace, and promise we will see each other again soon. After all, we’ve survived two trips to Ikea.
She wipes a single tear from her cheek, turns, and opens the door. A blast of moderately cold air takes us both by surprise and, pulling her hood up, and the pushchair near, she smiles, then is gone, enveloped by the slight mist which has descended on our street. I quickly force the door shut.
I leave Ollie to play a game, while I finish preparing for the harsh elements outside. I try to anticipate every obstacle that this wintry apocalypse might throw at us on the walk to school, but, if I’m honest, I am more concerned about my drive to work afterwards. From what I saw through the window earlier, the roads look mildly icy – the very worst kind of icy.
Soon, it’s time to depart. Wearing our ‘big coats’, I warn Ollie to stay close to me – if we get separated in these conditions, we may not be able to locate each other again, and the walk to his school is treacherous at the best of times.
He clasps my hand tightly, his little face pale through a mixture of fear, lack of sleep, and the fact that he won’t eat any fucking vegetables. I try to convince him everything will be ok, with a reassuring smile, but I know deep down I am only trying to convince myself.
With a deep breath, I open the door, and we step outside. A sudden light breeze catches me off-guard, and I struggle to lock the door behind us, the keys nearly slipping from my already-numb fingers. After grabbing the car’s wing mirror for balance, while we acclimatise to the apocalyptic conditions, we set off.
Adopting a manoeuvre somewhere between trudging and skiing – which I improvise, having only been skiing once, on a dry slope in Rossendale when I was twelve (although I saw a trailer for Channel 4’s ‘The Jump’ about a year ago, and feel pretty certain that taught me the rudimentary basics) – Ollie and I slide down the road, towards the haven of the school gates.
Progress is slow, primarily due to the deep snow (which is by now getting dangerously close to the tops of my shoes), but our journey is also littered with hazards – parents using prams as mock-sleds (and their children as impromptu Huskies), cars left abandoned by the side of the road, and the customary smears of dog shit on white pavements.
Ollie finds much of the trek harrowing, but I try to shield his face from the devastation where possible. Eventually, after a tortuous six minutes, we reach the school gates, and launch ourselves into the relative safety beyond.
Whilst still exposed (to the elements, that is – my underpants seem to be holding up rather nicely), the trees lining the school path provide some shelter from the howling wind, which is now approaching gusty. A few more minutes in conditions like that, and we would surely have been whisked away down the street, Ollie being the Toto to my Dorothy. Or something less camp.
Thankfully, with the worst of the biblical weather shielded from us, we reach the classroom door, and Ollie’s teacher opens it just wide enough for me to squeeze him through (any wider, and the door would surely have been ripped from its very hinges). Ollie offers a nervous smile through the glass, and I smile back, mouthing that I’ll be ok. He waves, and I leave before he can see me cry.
Without the extra weight, my trek back down the road is less arduous, but it takes time to compensate for the loss of ballast, and I end up performing a type of ‘camel spin’ figure-skating manoeuvre (look, I just Googled that, so you can piss off judging me).
Despite nearly Torvill and Deaning it straight past my car, and into our recycling bin, I manage to grab hold of the wing mirror again and, fighting against the zephyr surrounding me, I clamber into my car.
Mercifully, the engine splutters into life first time and, struggling against the elements (which are battering the car from every angle), I reverse off the drive, and head for one of the many country lanes, which stick out from Sandbach like the legs of a giant spider.
I need to concentrate at all times – so I don’t end up sideways in a ditch – but cannot resist a glance at the temperature gauge, as it drops to a dangerously-low 2°c. I silently pray that Volkswagen have tested their vehicles in such Antarctic conditions (although even if they have, they probably cheated the results). I am not particularly technical, but suspect cars cannot survive for long in temperatures below 5°c, and hope I reach work before the engine dies.
I soldier on, as Mother Earth attacks the car with every adverse weather condition known to man: gusts of wind that cause five, six, sometimes even seven leaves at a time to hinder my view, mixed with bursts of light drizzle that splatter against the windscreen. At one point, the drizzle becomes so mild to moderate, that I have no choice other than to switch the wipers from ‘intermittent’ to ‘constant’.
I have never been so grateful to reach work. True, in the harrowing forty-eight minutes it has taken me to get to the office (it normally takes only forty-three), the snow, ice, wind and rain have almost entirely vanished, but I – along with my fellow commuters – know the nightmarish journey we have all endured. Endured, and, with the exception of a stricken few, survived.
As I reflect on my morning odyssey, far be it from me to suggest that it would make a tremendous blockbuster movie, but should the likes of Abrams, Spielberg, perhaps even Howard (Ron, not Russell) be reading this, might I propose that Jake Gyllenhaal plays me in the lead role?
Disclaimer: This week’s entry contains some elements of artistic licence, and more than a mere smattering of sarcastic bullshit.
Thanks for reading.