I was strolling from the local park toward Eastcote the other day, as part of what passes for vigorous exercise these days in the Commuter household, when a lady of advanced years walking the other way (whom I did not know) said brightly "Isn't it strange how sunny and warm it is, with Christmas only two weeks away?". I made some commonplace remark and moved on. It's nice that total strangers have the confidence to make comments, (or perhaps I looked so downcast she thought I needed cheering up) but she was wrong. I posted on this very blog more than ten years ago to point out that we no longer suffer cold weather at this time of the year. Indeed, should the forecasters suggest that the temperature may drop towards 10 or 20 above zero just for a couple of days, you can be sure that the Daily Mail headline will read "Arctic Blast To Batter Britain" with a follow-up on "Celebrity top tips for avoiding a cold nose" or somesuch. It is not strange to have mild weather at this time of year, it would be snow and freezing temperatures that would be out of place.
But in our memories November was always chilly, brightened up by Bonfire Night and the smell of backyard fires as our fathers removed the leaves the non-ecological way; December was cold, wet and increasingly icy with sparkling clear nights that promised frost and left strange patterns on our (un-centrally heated) bedroom windows. You could seriously speculate about a white Christmas. We no longer do so. When I started commuting for the first time, going to school by train, in 1962 the winter was seriously cold, so cold that one day our train was held at North Harrow with a frozen track ahead. I cannot recall this happening since.
All of which makes the sort of stuff supermarkets insist on playing over their PA systems as you ponder between the Luxury, Premium and Special Gold nut selections all the more bizarre. Has anyone ever seen a one-horse open sleigh, let alone dashed through the snow in one? Does anyone round these parts go into "the meadow" to build a snowman? Is anyone really "dreaming" of a white Christmas or simply the dreading the horror of filthy slush and frozen snow heaped up at the side of roads, masking black ice for us to break our ankles over (assuming we have not been run over by a skidding car first)? And must they play "last Christmas you gave me your heart" as we walk past the meat counter? Or is Dr. Frankenstein the man putting on the CDs? I think we should be told.