Song, by Toad

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Music For Cold Weather

I genuinely love the cold.  Maybe my father’s Dutch-Canadian heritage has something to do with it, maybe my Austrian upbringing, maybe because my parents didn’t beat me as hard as they should have as a child, but if there’s a part of me which is perpetually disappointed by living in Britain it’s not the lack of a decent Summer, it’s the lack of a decent Winter.

I want Winter to be well below zero, for there to be snow on the ground for months at a time, for it to sting the tips of my fucking ears when I leave the house, for football to be abandoned for five months, for mulled wine to be served everywhere and roast potatoes and chestnuts to be available.  Given that Scotland is responsible for something as awesome as a hot toddy (see Wikipedia here, although ignore the bit about ‘usually’ including alcohol, they all have alcohol, this is Scotland) you know that it used to be proper cold here at some point.

Nevertheless, despite the generally accepted inadequacy of the British Winter (places in the very North of Scotland excused, I hear it’s fucking freezing there) and despite the fact that last year got kinda chilly, prompting Benni Hemm Hemm to quip in Glasgow that he loved the weather because we seemed to think that a couple of degrees below zero was actually cold, I am always left a little disappointed by the tepid drizzle which passes for Winter in these parts.

Just as hot weather induces a certain mindset in the people who live in it, so cold weather brings on a certain mentality.  Look at Finland, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Britain, Denmark, Germany and Canada and that seems to be alcoholism and a tendency towards either extreme liberalism or extreme violence, but for me it is something slightly different – probably the emotions from which the Christians parasitically appropriated Christmas.

As soon as things get really fucking freezing outside, the home becomes a massively important place.  Sanctuaries of warmth and light take on a very different quality, which people from warm climates cannot possibly understand.  Wherever you’re coming from, by the time you get in the house, your fingers and thumbs aren’t really working properly, you’re wrapped in ludicrously excessive layers of clothing, and it’s painfully obvious that without all this shite – the clothes, the central heating, the blankets, the warmth – you will die, really really quickly.

So being indoors on a dark evening in Winter, when you’re cosy and it’s fucking Baltic outside (one of Scotland’s best ever expressions – fuckin’ Baltic by the way!) becomes an intense treat. And of course people like me, and I assume you, listen to music. And for all it’s fun to dally with Summer fun and so on, there is no greater treat than spending a dark, cold evening inside the house with music.

And it’s a different kind of music too; I think something of the sanctuary of being indoors in the freezing cold permeates into what you choose to play.  As it gets colder and darker outside, I seem to progressively lose interest in new stuff and regress to my favourite music.  This, in turn, reinforces the idea of Winter time as being when you go back to your family, back to what really makes you who you are, and simply wait things out for the more carefree and laissez-faire days of Summer.

In fact, it’s a genuine mark that music will be with you forever, when you want to play it at eight at night on the eighteenth of December.  This year’s graduates, I think, are probably Timber Timbre.  Micah P. Hinson is there, and I think The National’s new album is probably there or thereabouts too.  But in general I prefer to listen to music I’ve been listening to for years, probably much the same as we all like to watch Indiana Jones for the four hundredth time on Boxing Day every year.

So I know Scotland doesn’t really have real Winters – well, most certainly not in Edinburgh, that’s for fucking certain – but there’s a reason I really welcome the first really bitey nip on my ears when I go outside, the first frost, the first frozen puddle to crunch underfoot.  It means it’s time to close up shop and spend time cosy in your home, snuggle up with someone on the couch, read books, play records you know you love, cook rich, thick food, and just enjoy being inside for a change.  Coming inside from the freezing cold outdoors – no feeling like it!

Timber Timbre – No Bold Villain

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Micah P. Hinson & the Gospel of Progress – Beneath the Rose

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Leonard Cohen – Master Song

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Smog – Drinking at the Dam

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8 witty ripostes to Music For Cold Weather

  1. avatar

    You have a room waiting for you in Boston. During most winters we have at least one week that is so cold that walking to park and back puts me in actual danger of getting frost bite.

    I always think of Rainy Night in Soho as the best ever winter song.

  2. avatar

    Rainy Night in Soho is, indeed, awesome, and quite possibly my favourite Pogues song.

    Mind you last winter was pretty bad in Scotland, Matthew…

    as for football abandoned for five months…not when Hibs have actually beaten Rangers at Ibrox!

  3. avatar

    I must say that my standards are pretty low for winter, considering that I where I come from, winter days are 10 degrees and rainy. But last winter in Edinburgh largely consisted of this:

    Me: SNOW! It’s EVERYWHERE! SNOWSNOWSNOW! *throws white stuff into air* AMAZING!
    Tom: *sigh* Yes, dear. Can we go inside now?

    Billie Holiday is also wonderful for a cold night. It’s also getting close to time for me to break out the Charlie Brown Christmas album. Nothing lovelier than this version of O Tannenbaum:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw6h4mZO1oU

    I guess I revert to jazz, which to me is comfort music from childhood.

  4. avatar

    Last winter was an epic pain in the hoop.

  5. avatar

    I think this year’s been pretty good by UK standards for actual proper seasons that you could tell the difference between; rather than the traditional year-long parade of slightly varying shades of damp newspaper grey we usually call ‘The Weather’.

    As MadCow pointed out, last winter was a proper winter, with snow and everything, then spring arrived with a breath of chilly but fresh air and perky, cool sunny days. The summer wasn’t really a scorcher as such – but it was more than pleasant enough – and pretty much reliably dry. Autumn has keenly grasped the opportunity it’s put on a show of colours, and now early winter’s here it’s brought its bright watery sun low on the horizon and rainbows that fleetingly illuminate gunmetal skies.

    Good stuff. Well done, mother nature.

  6. avatar

    Dylan – you and Mother Nature should get a room.

  7. avatar

    He’s right though, this year has been pretty good for actual seasons. I was looking forward to the snow the rest of the country got, but Edinburgh seems to be in the worst imaginable geographical location for getting proper snow.

    And I am with Sarah on all the complaining we had, too. Snow is not a cause for whining, Britain. It is a cause for “Woo hoo SNOWSNOWSNOW!”

    Spring was late, but very Springy, and Autumn has been classic Edinburgh: cold, with incredibly bright sunshine. And intermittent downpours of course, but not bad all told. So Dylan’s right: Mother Nature, you are awarded a B- for your efforts this year.

    I still want lots and lots of real fucking snow though. I love snow. And I haven’t had any to speak of since I left home in 1993. BALLS.

  8. avatar

    I went to Ottawa last January and it was amazing to watch people plot routes from one side of the city to the other sticking to malls, cutting through shops. There is an entire winter coat industry in Canada that does not permeate south simply because that level of nuclear protection is simply not necessary anywhere else.

    Funnily I found putting in my headphones made me feel warmer. With music playing huddled inside my own coat cut off from the freeze.

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