Letter from a Wild West Hillbilly
No. 7: Weathering the winter winds in poetic style
As autumn morphs into winter there are stop-start icy winds troubling our crazy coastline. I don’t welcome them. They tear through skin and bone with no care for comfort and show no empathy towards wimpish weaknesses. Even my base layer fails to keep me warm when these arctic winds are at their full height. The only saving grace I can grant them is that they make my unruly hair look windswept-cool – once I’ve found shelter that is.
When out on the wild West Hill this time of year it’s important for me to stay warm, dry, conscious and, if possible, creative. Over the years I’ve learned to build up resilience layer by layer. My dressing regime becomes ever more complicated and vaguely ridiculous. As my body shrinks into itself my spirit expands – the idea is for it to be able to pluck lines of poetry from the choppy waves below or ideas for absurdist cartoons out of those fast-moving clouds.
Layers of clothing begin with a vest, to protect my ailing chest. It needs to be a very long vest to drop below my very long torso. Over this comes a thermal T-shirt, loose at the neck or I feel like I’m choking. There could be a thick cotton shirt wrapped around these two as well, if the wind is shiver-me-timbers cold. Next comes a jumper, some may say pullover or jersey, in my native County Cork we say gansey (apparently a West Indian dialect word for Guernsey, although widely used in Ireland and Wales).
Although already up to four layers now I still like to add a further woolly one. This is likely to be a cardigan, open at first to allow me to do up buttons when needed and thus feel more psychologically protected against the elements as they hit me harder. All of these inner layers must be woven or knitted from natural materials of course, pure cotton or pure wool. Viscose and acrylic give me the screaming ab-dabs, brought on by allergic reactions and unreachable itches.
With basic wrappings complete I can now concentrate on accessories. Rock ‘n’ roll pointy shoes are replaced with sensible footwear – DM’s or similar. Scarves are chosen: a close-knotted neckerchief reminiscent of the romantic poets or pre-Raphaelite painters hanging loose at the throat; a colourful weave in the style of Rupert Bear or Dr Who lays over this to further blanket the neck. All I need now is a robust coat.
Faux fur is an option but none of those I can currently access are really long enough to stop a strong wind from swirling up between my legs. There’s my crombie style overcoat but that’s more for swanning about like Arthur Daley on a still day. I do have a cheapo Barbour-style number that isn’t quite an anorak although it still makes me look like a nerd. The final choice, then, is my long black falling-apart old faithful with the rotting lining, and all the pockets I need.
I have a great designer man bag but when laden it twists my spine and triggers three days of muscular shoulder pain. Better then to stuff my travelling essentials into inner and outer coat pockets where I can carefully balance the weight. Wherever I go I always carry on board at least one novel and one poetry book, pens, pencils, paper, random crosswords, three inhalers, an iPhone, painkillers, vegan Naked Bars, dental products, my trusty hip flask and , needless to say, the latest copy of Hastings Independent.
So this is my way of dealing with freezing winter winds. I may be over the hill but at least it’s the West Hill Hastings. Peace and warmth.