Suggested Audio Delights:
 Incubus “The Warmth”
 Kate Bush “Cloudbursting”
 Nik Kershaw “The Riddle”
 Florence + The Machine “Breath of Life”
 Aileen Quinn “It’s The Hard Knock Life”
Whatever happens in my life from this point forward, I’ll forever cherish the warmth. It is all around us but we don’t always see it, it staves off the bitter cold when we need it most, and brings with it an almighty glow, the likes of which can light up the bleakest horizon. I have felt the cold so many times over the past few years that I’ve lost count, been exposed and vulnerable, gasping for some kind of last-ditch defence against the big chill and this is when the warmth has been at its most comforting. The tiniest thing can spark it, certain souls possess it in abundance, and a bad day can turn on a nickel as those vapors begin to rise. I have found the long winters to be the most challenging by far but the cold isn’t exclusive to these months. Indeed, we are currently in the midst of summer, and there have still been plenty of goosebumps, regardless of climate. We all have our hardships, sorrows, and pains and some days just feel more hopeless than others. I know dear friends who have been fighting tooth and nail for a cause so vital and found themselves back at square one through no fault whatsoever of their own. Life can suck far better than it kisses in these moments and the temperature drops to rock bottom. A little warmth creates a glow, which can make all the difference when it’s needed most.
Everytime I witness such acts of kindness, whether actively involved or simply bystander, I smile wide as I just feel blessed to know the people responsible and be able to call them my friends. The warmth is the whole reason I’m not in a museum right now packed in ice as there have been numerous occasions when I’ve needed to feel that glow and it’s been on hand as each critical mass approaches. I’m talking of good honest people with hearts like hot air balloons, who require wet sand in their pockets just to stop them from floating off into the clouds. Pay close enough attention and you’ll see their souls glimmer, until you are surrounded by shining lights and have a clear path through the storm clouds. These people empower you to give more, fight harder, scream louder, and not throw in the towel when you’re starting to feel drunk on punches. Without them we would be defeated, but they have no intention of letting us get to that ten count, and pull us back to our feet before the bell can toll. If we’re dazed, then they’ll find us a stall, hurting and they’ll produce that magical band-aid, but they’ll see us through because they truly care unequivocally. This is true warmth right here.
It has been a good couple of years since we last saw snowfall in the U.K., at least in the south-east of England, and my feelings about this have been decidedly mixed. On one hand, considering my fallout shelter isn’t the toastiest of fortresses at the best of times, sub-zero conditions are not and never will be my bosom buddies. There’s nothing fun about frozen nipples and the toes are the very first on the freeze agenda. However, since I learned never to scoop up a yellow snowball, I’ve had my fair share of jollies with Jack Frost and his associates. This has entailed erecting snowmen, none of whom look particularly pleased to see me I might add, taking ill-fated toboggan rides into thorny bushes, and pelting the unexpecting with glacial grenades just for the sheer helluvit. They may growl your way but, fuck it, you can’t remain angry with so much glorious snow around to play with like the whippersnappers we’re gradually reverting back to. What do you mean that’s just me? Come on, that yellow snow doesn’t color itself you know.
Anyhoots, enough of the niceties, why should you listen to another solitary moment of my blathering? Well it just so happens that I have a time machine close by and it’s fully tanked right now so that could only conceivably mean one thing – goodbye Paloma Faith and hello Kate Bush. Nothing personal Paloma but Kate had us way back at Bambuska. I could sit around here all day in my withered shell casting my eye over nothing of any great relevance or I could fire up the machine and head back to what would once have been regarded as the future. For the purpose of this expedition, I shall be packing my hat, scarf and mittens as my chosen coordinates are the bleak midwinter of 1981, when I was barely seven-years-old and the snow was still a source of immense fascination to me. There had been around twelve inches of snowfall to my recollection and I was preparing myself for a decidedly white Christmas and all of the wonders that accompanied it. This particular day, the extreme weather conditions had been sufficient for all the schools in the area to close and, as I drew back my curtain to reveal a dense white blanket outside, it became time to break out my very best happy dance.
As I trudged outside into the winter wonderland, armed with whatever thick wool my mother could wrap around me before I scurried out the door, I felt like life’s youngest ever rollover lotto winner. Ordinarily I would be required to feign sickness to earn myself a day off from my studies and this wasn’t helped by the fact that mom had a pretty good radar for bullshit. Licking my palms no longer worked, neither did groaning like the terminally ill, and she had become wise to every last one of my tricks by this point. So around a foot of overnight snow was more than welcome and I ventured out into the blizzard with an immense degree of satisfaction. While I was in seventh heaven, anyone foolish enough to attempt the journey to work by car was in far damper spirits. Automobiles slid about before me like alloy figure skaters minus any kind of grace whatsoever, desperately attempting to grip onto the icy tarmac, and failing miserably. On the reverse side of the coin, any ankle biters in the vicinity were all teeth and braces, thrilled to the gums to have been granted a day off from curriculum and making the very most of the opportunity presented them.
Okay so while I’m painting a rather pleasant picture here, I have to come clean as I haven’t a single memory in my banks which relates to snowy conditions. I’ve tried, heaven knows I’ve tried, but my very best efforts have thrown up nothing but an almighty blank. So what do I do? Should I dash off to my time machine and make the return journey, then this entire exercise would have been in vain. That said, now that I’m here, I may as well make use of that wild imagination of mine. By seven-years-old it was blossoming nicely and I had recently been introduced to a novel by C.S. Lewis by the name of…
Time to break formation Grueheads and conjure up something from nothing methinks. You see, by stepping into the closet in question, I could be instantly transported to a place of great wonderment via a magic portal. Narnia was far more interesting than any location I had visited in reality and a sweet-toothed boy like myself was never likely to say no to the proposal of free Turkish Delight. That’s right, someone out here was peddling these sugar-coated slabs of heaven and I just had to grab myself a pocketful.
I’d heard about the infamous Snow Queen and been warned that all that glitters isn’t gold. Apparantly she used this bargaining tool to snatch away any children fitting my description and recruit them for her personal army. There was great trepidation as I set off into the wintry woodland and a part of me was screaming out to turn back before it was too late. That tends to equate to rather a miniscule percentage of a young boy’s mind and, besides, I’d already spotted a curious fellow lurking over by the mulberry bush and simply had to head over for formal introductions. Had he been just a regular man, then he may not have intrigued me so, but there was nothing uniform about this particular snowy straggler. My first clue was the goat horns and, while seemingly human from his head to his waist, below that was a whole ton of kooky. I kind of dug on his cloven hooves but remained somewhat cautious as I had never before seen them on an aristocrat. This had to be one of those mythological creatures I had heard so much about and he certainly didn’t appear menacing so I traipsed across to investigate further. Early signs were positive as he appeared as happy to see me as I was him. So I swiftly commenced with my ice breaker.
“Good morning fellow traveller”
“Good morning? How very preposterous. It’s already lunchtime don’t you know”
“My apologies. I’m all out of whack with my timekeeping”
“Fret not as there’s still time my boy”
“Time for what may I ask?”
“For what? For what? What else is there but tea?”
I have to come clean, while tea had proven itself a rather refreshing early morning appetizer, I had long since graduated to a far more sugary craving. I didn’t step into the closet for a nice warm mug of hospitality, I came here for Turkish Delight dagnabbit, and he could poke his Earl Grey straight into the drop box below his furry tail.
“Mind if I take a raincheck?”
“Mind if I clench my hooves and punt your testicles into your tonsils?”
“Okay. Perhaps just half a cup wouldn’t hurt”
“You’ll get what you’re given young man and damn well like it. It’s made from extracts of the legendary farting cactus I’ll have you know”
He wasn’t selling this tea particularly well. However, the thing about mythological creatures is that they tend not to be the kind of savages to mess with. Only recently, I had been made privy to Clash of The Titans for the first time, and knew all about Medusa’s icy glare. This faun didn’t have any venomous head snakes in his possession and neither had I been turned to stone just for coming off a poor second during the initial stare out, but I wasn’t about to take him lightly as who knew what kind of Kraken he was packing.
“Lead the way but, please, my mother always taught me not to head off with strangers. Would you be so kind as to introduce yourself formally? Here, I’ll get the ball rolling. My name is Richard”
“Tumnus is the name. Now can we move things on a little? My home is a good three clicks to the south and I can hear the kettle brewing as we speak”
“Why of course Tumnus. May I say it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance?”
“Knock yourself out but I won’t be listening. Time is a wasting you see”
Damn those cloven hooves could cover some ground and in record time no less. It was fruitless attempting to keep up as he bounded off, so I followed the trail of prints strewn across the snowy blanket before me and eventually arrived at my destination, puffing and feeling the harsh nip of Jack Frost right through to my very calcium, but now a darned sight more receptive to his kind offer of a tepid beverage to warm my fast freezing cockles.
“Come straight inside and make yourself at home. Mi casa es tu casa”
“Two sugars please. I have to say this is a lovely place you have yourself here Mr. Tumnus”
“Why thank you. It was something of a fixer-upper when I moved in but I like to think I’ve made it rather homely”
In fact, I was lying through my teeth. This place was a dump, nay, an absolute pigsty and smelt of mothballs and soiled bed linen. I just prayed he didn’t stir my teas with the same hoof he used to wipe his ass as he evidently hadn’t mastered the old front to rear wipe yet. Regardless, I was positively parched, and not about to run the risk of hurting his feelings so I kept up the charade and flashed him my milk teeth just to keep him on side until we could get to the real nitty-gritty.
“Care for a macaroon Richard?”
“Actually, I wondered whether you may have something a little more saccharine”
“Grocery day is Thursday so I can’t promise anything but, by all means, make your request and I shall do my best to accommodate”
“I was thinking…perhaps…some Turkish Delight?”
“You fucking muppet!”
“I should have known the very first moment that I saw your snotty face back at the thicket. You’ve been pussy whipped ain’t cha?”
“I don’t follow”
“She’s a wrong ‘un Richard. How can I make this crystal clear for you? The Snow Queen you’ve heard about is evil to her very core and way beyond that also”
“I didn’t even mention her. Indeed, I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about”
“Blah, blah. Save it for some chump who has time to have his tail tugged. We both know why you’re here and it sure as shit ain’t my PG Tips”
I was sensing hostility here and knew I would be required to play my cards right if I wasn’t to end up shackled to the sea cliffs outside Joppa while the Kraken was unleashed. Thus I took a sip and it took every last dash of my sufferance not to wince as he had clearly forgotten to stir my brew.
“This is…delightful Tumnus”
“Then why are you retching like you’re just about to throw up on my Persian rug?”
Persian? I may have only been seven-years-old and relatively fresh behind my ears, but there was no way on earth that a dense floorcloth of matted pubes constituted for Persian. A few splurges of vomit would actually have tied the room together rather nicely but I wasn’t about to argue the toss so gulped down the bile and went in for a second similarly repulsive sip. This, in itself, took all of the endurance I could muster and even dipped into my reserves. I dreaded reaching the tea leaves at the foot of my mug and planned to empty the contents into his potted flowers the very instant he had his back turned. Of course, this would require skullduggery on my part and I scanned my proximity for ways to pull the wool over his eyes.
“Is that a moose head over there above the log burner?”
“Actually it’s an elk. She used to be a friend of mine. Elkie Brooks was her name. We were very close”
My cunning plan wasn’t working one iota. His eye contact remained unbroken as he prepared to relay back some hackneyed fable of love lost and hearts broken and, all the while, my already unpalatable beverage was gradually slipping beneath room temperature. It was high time I activate def con 2 and draw his attention to the imaginary arachnid currently weaving its web between his beloved Elkie’s antlers.
“Well would you look a that. I don’t believe I have ever seen such a humongous spider in all of my seven years”
My impish ruse worked a treat and I swiftly tossed the contents of my mug into the plant pot, causing it to wither up and die almost instantaneously. However, before I could complete the motion, he turned back and caught me both red-handed and faced.
“You…you…you ungrateful bastard”
“So sorry. I’m dreadfully clumsy. A real butter fingers”
“I don’t want to hear it. Do I look like I fell off the last sled to Lapland? Disrespect me in my own home will you? And after I welcomed you inside no less”
“I feel positively wretched Tumnus. How can I atone for my indiscretion?”
“Well you can start by getting the fuck out of my house and never darkening my doorway again you rancid little puke bubble”
“Too late to change my mind about that macaroon?”
“Way too late. Tell you what, I hope you find this Turkish Delight you hanker after, and don’t come crying to me when you’re turned into a newt”
“Fuck off out of my sight before I give your nipples a tweak they’ll never forget”
Well that seemed to have gone rather well. I’d pissed off a faun, murdered a geranium, almost choked on a mug of what I can only assume was scooped straight out of his latrine after his morning bowel movement, and was still no closer to locating the delight I craved. Dejected, I followed my tracks back to the magic portal and was just about to step inside when I heard another voice, only this one far less embittered.
“Where are you off to so fast Richard?”
Whoever this was knew my name and evidently had her seduction voice well and truly down to pat. There was a peppering of dread to my curiosity as Tumnus had been adamant that the Snow Queen I had been in search of was not to be taken lightly. However, far more prominent was the aroma of sugared confectionary and I was pretty sure it was of Turkish origins. In later years I would learn all about what really went on in harems but, right now, my sweet innocent mind could only discern the scent of more PG-13 rated delectations. They say to be careful what you wish for but a seven-year-old mind knows not how to administer such protection. All that mattered was stuffing my face until such time as it all came back up in rose and lemon scented chunks, doused in the obligatory stomach acids.
“I’ve been told not to trust you”
“By whom? Tumnus I suppose”
“I’m not naming names”
“It’s okay. That pesky faun has had it in for me for years now. I suppose you tried his tea”
“Well? Was it everything you ever hoped and more?”
“It was awful”
“Of course it was. I would say it is him you should not be placing your faith into. Turn around and let me get a good look at the whites of those eyes Richard. There’s nothing more frustrating than sparking up a conversation with the back of a head”
“You won’t try anything?”
“Heaven forbid. I’m all sweetness and light me. A friend to the very end”
“Well I suppose it wouldn’t hurt”
“No it won’t. It won’t hurt a bit. Muhahaha!”
“What was that last bit?”
“It’s Hebrew for come a little closer dear. Here, how about if I throw in a little Turkish Delight to sweeten the deal”
“Yes. I have quite the stockpile here in my icy chariot and am only too happy to share with the likes of you”
“How do I know you’re not tricking me?”
“You don’t. But that just makes it all the more exciting don’t you agree?”
“Okay. Here goes”
Evil Snow Queen or not, I was digging on her head-dress and there was something about her cold, sharp features that had me all in way before the flop. My very best poker face counted for precious little here as she knew full well that she had me hook, line, and sinker and wasn’t about to let this little fishy off her hook.
“You see. I’m really not that bad. Never trust a bad rep young man and, by no means whatsoever, should you ever rely on the fickle word on one who is halfway to billy-goat”
“I apologize for having doubted you…”
“Jadis is the name. But many refer to me as the Keeper of The Turkish Delight. You see, my wares are rather extensive”
“Mind if I have a taste?”
“By all means. Here, get your chops around this sweet little mystery and try telling me that it’s not the most succulent delight you ever tasted”
Naturally, I plundered myself a rose segment before the next snowflake could settle and, true to her word, this was indeed Turkish Delight of the most kickass order. Never before had anything melted in my mouth so willingly, tantalizing every last one of my taste buds, as it made sweet love to my throat on its descent. I took one final glance at my caution and threw it briskly to the wind, leaning forward to claim myself another wedge of divine ecstasy. However, this time she snatched it away before I could delve inside, and commenced to further explain her terms for acting as my pusher.
“Hold your horses Richard dear. We can’t have you polishing off the whole box and making yourself sick. It would be far better to pace yourself and it just so happens I’m feeling decidedly generous today so I have another proposal to place on the table”
“You see my snow sled?”
“Well it can achieve 0-60 in 3.2 seconds and we can be back at the castle in two shakes of a faun’s tail if you wish. There you can binge on all the Turkish Delight your heart desires and I wouldn’t even think of standing in your way”
“All I can eat?”
“Every last sugar dusted morsel. You can fill up to your heart’s content, stuff those rosy cheeks to capacity, and you’ll have nothing but my blessings to do so”
“You’ve got yourself a deal lady”
I climbed aboard and felt primed for whatever grand adventure she had planned, but she had other things in mind before we hit the sleet.
“I hear you have three older siblings. Am I correct in this assumption?”
“You are. My sisters. Why?”
“Well once you’ve taken your fill from my Turkish Delight, it is only natural that you will wish to inform them of its exquisite flavor and I’m not really up for doing shuttle runs today”
“Your point being?”
“Go and fetch them will you? I’ll wait here while you do, then we’ll all go to the castle together and save the forest fuel”
“I’m not sure about that”
“Why? Sharing is caring don’t you know. It seems like the only civil thing to do in such circumstances”
“That may well be but they have a tendency to dress me up in their frocks and treat me like their own personal flower fairy”
“I’m afraid that’s my sole stipulation. There are three more seats on my ride and I expect them filled before we move another solitary muscle”
“How do I know that you haven’t got something untoward planned?”
“Here, take another sniff of my Turkish Delight”
“I’ll be back in ten”
“I’ll be here for twenty”
I ventured back through the magic portal and swiftly found myself in the far more familiar territory of my bedroom wardrobe. I had an inkling that the Snow Queen’s proposal had been bogus but sacrificing three scheming sisters seemed scant payment for a lifetime’s supply of Turkish Delight. What I hadn’t planned for was that all three would be there in waiting upon my return and they used their collective might to pin me down, slide a pair of my grandmother’s old stockings over my face, and drag me back to their boudoir for further humiliation. I struggled to break free from their grip but it was to no avail; within seconds I was dressed up like Annie and the mere thought of the sun coming out tomorrow chilled me to my innermost marrow. I wished only to be back in the snow, riding that chariot to a wealth of riches that no child had ever before witnessed and lived to tell the tale. Yet I was hamstrung by my nylon shackles and, by the time I could tear open the gusset to plead my case, they’d already painted on the cheek dimples and organized my hair into bunches.
Thirty minutes this continued until which point as their interest started to wane. I waited patiently for the first available opportunity to break free and hobbled off to the wardrobe in a pair of my mother’s heels to make my fast getaway back to Narnia. Alas, on my return, I was greeted by two things. Firstly, a pearl necklace, crudely applied face make-up, and lashes far more lustrous than the ones I had batted previously. The mirror told no lies and, truth be known, I’d have fucked me if I knew how to operate my special purpose by that point. Secondly, and far more dishearteningly, the magic portal had now sealed up entirely and my wardrobe was no longer anything more than a dead-end for my three embittered sisters to chase me into. They did precisely that and made me pay a grand sum for my wanderlust. Moreover, I never got to taste that delicious Turkish Delight again. Plus I looked like a broad.
That was almost thirty-five years ago now and I regularly check my closet just in case the portal has reappeared so I can take care of any unfinished business and binge until downright nauseous. Nothing, not a solitary opening, just the bitter taste of enduring disappointment and a pile of frocks that I sneakily hoarded while that trio of foul wenches weren’t paying attention. As for the chill, well I would do anything just to feel its icy embrace once more. However, all I get is poxy warmth. Had you lot not kept the fire burning while the bitter gales began to blow back in 2013, then I’d likely be snorting sugar from the Snow Queen’s sternum right now and being hoofed by mythological creatures. Instead I have to fist myself and, to this day, I’ve only been courageous enough to slide in two lubricated fingers. From what I hear, it’s a delight in itself, but you miserable do-gooders keep me on the straight and narrow dagnabbit. Just for your insolence, I plan to roll up one almighty snowball and pelt it straight in your sorry faces. And damn right, it’s gonna be yellow.
Of course, I will do no such thing Grueheads. Forgive me if I run off at the mouth on occasion but I have no overwhelming desire to engage in an act so nefarious, despite how gut-bustingly hilarious a pastime that would be. You see, I’m surrounded by the warmth and that ain’t so tragic when you think about it. A thousand well-meaning smiles are far more formidable than the allure of Turkish Delight and I trust you fine people far more than that ominous Snow Queen. That said, I do expect reimbursement for keeping the faith and I believe that comes in both rose and lemon varieties. And you can poke your tea where the snow doesn’t fall. Now, if you don’t mind, this pinafore is beginning to itch and I’ve heard that wearing nylon panties for too long can lead to the most terrible case of thrush. Thankfully, I’ve finally got the hang of these heels. Still working on the child-bearing hips but these estrogen shakes simply have to pay off eventually. One final poser and I shall wash myself out of your hair once and for all: does my butt look big in this?