It's apparently been snowing all over the north of England today. People on the Yorkshire Moors have been trapped in cars, and thousands are without electricity. I'm in York, but there's no sign of anything untoward. It's cold, though. Stupidly cold. I nearly had to buy a scarf. The Queen arrives here tomorrow for some kind of official visit. I'm worried I'll never escape!
I bought a painting today. I went into a little Greek barber shop to have my hair cut in a bit of York that I don't know very well. There were, rather unusually I thought, paintings for sale on the wall. There were a series of acrylic images of an apocalyptic blood-orange sky, with a little house sitting on the top of a perilous-looking cliff top silhouetted in the foreground. Each of the pictures was similar but different, and each of the houses had a little sign outside which simply read "for sale." I kept staring at the images. They really spoke to me. They tell a tale of hope against hope, I guess. Sometimes I feel like I'm sitting on the top of a mountain in front of a burning sky, trying to flog my wares. I still do it. Against my better judgement and against all the odds.
The painting cost £80. I'm sure the artist barely covered his costs.
On the way up to York, I found myself in a train with an immensely charming guard. His name badge said Stephen Sheard, and I'm naming him because I want people to seek him out if they see him on an East Coast Mainline train. He is an absolute credit to his employers; full of compassion, very chatty and hugely witty. As we pulled into Doncaster, he said over the train tannoy, "unfortunately my mother-in-law lives in this part of the world, so there will be dark clouds and a considerable amount of rain as you leave the train. Make sure you don't slip on the platform!" Old school, but funny.
Five seconds later, he arrived with a pair of fun packs for two of the kids in the carriage. It doesn't take much, but it can make a massive difference to someone's day.
350 years ago, Pepys went by barge to Deptford to "pay off" various ships. His diary entry ends with a somewhat chilling comment:
"I was much troubled to-day to see a dead man lie floating upon the waters, and had done (they say) these four days, and nobody takes him up to bury him, which is very barbarous."