“January, don’t be cold, don’t be angry to me…” so sang Scottish rockers Pilot back in 1975.
Well, January hasn’t changed much. Still cold, still angry.
What to do about it?
Buy a new coat. A big coat. One you could live in if you found yourself stranded on a lonely stretch of motorway.
A good coat is a friend. It comforts, it enfolds and, if you’re lucky, it has jelly beans in its pockets.
I bought a coat back in November when I finally had to face the arrival of winter.
It had been a long time since I’d bought an actual coat – something to protect me below the waist, I mean. Until then, I’d really concentrated on jackets.
Of which I have a multitude. Leather, suede, denim, faux fur, cotton, mixed fibres… you name it, I’ve got a jacket made of it. I even have something in PVC, but you don’t need to know all my secrets.
The only coats I possessed, however, were decorative things. Thin, swishy numbers which look great but fail to keep out a bitter northeasterly wind.
So I invested in a padded parka in metallic khaki.
I put it on and not only does it warm me instantly, but I suddenly ache with style!
Ah, the snuggliness! And oh! The comments!
My fashionable friends are all agog when I tell them it’s from Tesco! £36 on special offer. And it goes all the way to my knees! Zipped side pockets, a faux-fur trimmed, detachable hood and a special little rubber entry point for your headphone lead! I love a rubber entry point.
So many design features at such a low price.
And that’s why, these days, most people have more than one coat. Because clothes are cheap.
My children cannot understand how I survived my childhood with just one of everything. Or how anybody did.
I explain that, at the beginning of December every year my mum and dad would take my brother and me up to Dickens and Jones on Regent Street to purchase our winter coats.
They would be heavy, wool coats with linings and they would not be fashionable because fashionable was not a thing children were back then.
If anything, we took our lead from Paddington Bear whose duffle coat had quite a high profile with the under-tens and was at least some kind of incentive to wear the thing.
My dad had one coat the whole time I was growing up. He kept it in the cupboard under the stairs.
It was a heavy, dark, cashmere coat from Cecil Gee circa 1960, bought on Shaftesbury Avenue. I loved the smell of it.
At that time, Dad worked as a marine surveyor and his job took him to dockyards all over the country.
His coat had the faint aroma of the tobacco smoked by the stevedores (he wasn’t a smoker himself), some hints of tar and, so my seven year old self thought, the smell of the saltwater of the sea itself.
In my mind it was how a respectable pirate would smell. One making a court appearance, say.
If ever my dad was away and I wanted to feel near him, I’d hop into the cupboard and inhale deep draughts of coat-infused air.
I don’t think my clothes have the same story to tell my own children.
If they hopped in my wardrobe they might be overwhelmed by the toxic fumes of perfume and hairspray. (I’m a generous user of both.)
And I don’t think any of my coats would stay in their memory.
Their father however, has a coat with history. It’s a Harris tweed coat. A proper coat.
It was bought for his eighteenth birthday and he still wears it. It has those classic leather shank buttons and it weighs a ton.
It has outlasted all the other iconic garments he had when I met him: the Levi 501s, the actorly, black, roll-neck jumper and the (god help us) felt trilby. (His look was very much Terence Stamp meets Inspector Clouseau, but don’t tell him I said that.)
That coat is my friend as much as his. So many times he opened it to let me in when it was cold and I wasn’t wearing enough clothes and the bus/train/tube was delayed.
It’s a very accommodating coat. It’s been through British winters, it’s toured Europe and it’s been thrown on the bed at parties just about everywhere.
I’m not entirely sure one of our children wasn’t conceived under it.
It’s a coat he’ll be handing down. (It seems appropriate.)
And before you ask, there’ll be no sex in my Tesco coat, rubber entry point or not.