Wednesday, 1 February 2012

(tiddly pom)

Early findings from an on-going study by the Department of Thermal Concern and Personal Insulation Studies at the University of Nina suggest that most people regard long underwear as a subject of humour and not as essential winter equipment. My study mostly consists of waiting for someone to complain that they're cold, and then asking them if they're wearing long-johns. Generally the subject will laugh and say that they're not, and then laugh some more when I tell them that I am, no really I actually am [sometimes at this point I'm required to hoik up a trouser leg to prove it], and that I'm therefore not as cold as them. While writing this it has just occurred to me that some of these people may not even be wearing vests - a hypothesis so shocking that I hadn't thought to investigate it until now.

Apparently another big freeze is on the way. We don't take the weather seriously here, and we pay for it when conditions become extreme. Making the nation's homes fit for our climate is a longer-term project, but dressing ourselves sensibly is simple. Layers are the key. Long-johns under trousers make a surprisingly big difference. (One of my cousins shares my belief in long-johns and says he has three pairs: one for work, one for weekends, and one for best. I didn't find out what made the 'best' ones special.) I assume you are wearing a vest already - perhaps even a beautiful hand-knitted one like Krisha's. If you don't have long-johns, leggings are very similar and tights work too but the nylon kind are pointless - thicker cotton ones are better and woollen tights are excellent. That's another thing people don't always know about: wool is very warm. Two layers of cotton plus one layer of wool is far warmer than three or four layers of cotton alone. The above-mentioned study has revealed a widespread ignorance of the benefits of woollen socks. How did we forget about these things? It's a bit embarrassing that the government has to remind us to wear warm clothes in cold weather. (I'm not entirely sure this is necessary in other countries. Scandinavians expect the winter to be very cold - that's why their homes have triple glazing.) Perhaps it's a symptom of our disconnection from the natural world, or our slavish following of fashion and convention even when they don't serve our well-being. A disconnection from our own senses must play a part, too.
What to wear in cold weather
To clarify what I mean by sensible clothing, my standard cold weather attire is: knickers and bra, long-johns, sleeveless vest, woollen socks, long-sleeved t-shirt, trousers, jumper. (By the way, jeans are not warm, even though they're thick. Cords are better and woollen trousers are best of all, if you have them.) To venture outside I add a woollen coat, and woollen scarf, hat, gloves. Mostly I wear some not-especially-warm trainers but in the coldest weather I bring out my felt boots. If I'm still cold with all of that on, I add more layers: a second jumper (cashmere layers very nicely because it's not too bulky, and there are tons of cheap second-hand cashmere jumpers on Ebay), a short-sleeved t-shirt over the long-sleeved one, cotton socks under the woollen pair, mittens over gloves, a shawl on top of my coat. On one or two sub-zero occasions I've even been seen to sport a calf-length knitted skirt over my trousers, which was very much like being wrapped in a blanket. You might think I look silly. I think that girl turning blue at the bus-stop in 40 denier nylon tights and a cotton jacket is silly. There's just no point in catching hypothermia, people.