Brrrr. Atchoo. This cold weather has brought back the sniffles I thought I had got rid of a fortnight ago.
Besides the hot lemon drinks, I have something else to cuddle up to on these chilly nights. What? No, not Mrs X. I have her and now something else. I don’t know why we hadn’t thought about them before. Hot water bottles.
This old-fashioned, low-tech bed-and-person warmer works. Pour in hot, not boiling, water and put it in your bed to warm it. Then, half an hour later, after you finish watching telly, hop in. At that point, it is just the right temperature for hugging.
If you have a partner, get them to face you, and you can both hug your hot water bottles. Place them at different positions on your body so that the heated area on both your bodies is thereby doubled. I know that sounds technical – just put it on your chest and ask your partner to put it on their abdomen.
Or, just experiment with where to put them to get the best effect. I will leave that to your imagination. Cuddly warmth in bed and a bank account without a big dent.
We love Susie Dent, who is a big star. You know the lady I mean. Susie is well known as the adjudicator in Dictionary Corner on the Channel 4 gameshow Countdown, and its less formal late-night spinoff, 8 Out 0f 10 Cats Does Countdown, with host Jimmy Carr.
No, I am not so idle that I watch Countdown each afternoon, but I do sometimes record it.
How not to hurkle-durkle
Susie also researches old words and phrases and publishes them in a timely fashion on X, formerly Twitter.
Noting the imminent arrival of bitterly cold weather the other day, Susie thought it a good time to mention the auld Scots phrase “hurkle-durkle”. According to the blessed Susie: “For anyone who hasn’t heard it, to “hurkle-durkle”, from 19th-century Scots, is to linger under the covers of a warm bed long after it’s time to get up.”
For anyone who hasn’t heard it, to ‘hurkle-durkle’, from 19th-century Scots, is to linger under the covers of a warm bed long after it’s time to get up.
— Susie Dent (@susie_dent) January 12, 2024
Timely indeed. Yesterday, I knew it had been snowing overnight, so it was cold outside, the hot water bottles were cold inside, and I could not detach myself from my pillow. I just hurkle-durkled.
One guy who probably does not hurkle-durkle is the legendary half-Scottish singer Rod Stewart. Staying in the grandest hotels, he will be cosy all night long.
Rod and his family stayed for a week at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire recently. Ooh, posh. They loved it so much that they even left a wee tip for the staff who looked after them – £10,000. Gee whiz.
Oysters are off the menu
We have also been getting other tips to help us get through the bleak midwinter. NHS Western Isles has been advising on the nasty winter vomiting bug, known as norovirus, which has been doing the rounds up here. Medics have been telling us how not to catch it and how not to spread it.
There was all the usual advice about washing your hands regularly, and so on. Yep, we know. Just like during the worst of the pandemic.
Then, the public health professionals added a few tips. Don’t eat oysters, don’t use alcohol hand gels, and be extra careful to wipe down everything in the loo after you with bleach. Everything.
Er, I can’t afford oysters. I have no hand gels left and… what? What are you suggesting?
Apparently, unwiped toilets are a danger zone for this very nasty bug, and alcohol gels do nothing to stop its spread. Bleach is the weapon of choice for this one. You need to be careful about scoffing any raw foods, and the bug can live happily for ages in oysters, particularly.
Wonderful oysters are harvested on Barra, but eating them is tricky because of the shucking. That’s where you have to try and get to the flesh by prising open the shell. It can be difficult. A large screwdriver has worked best for me.
The alternative is to go to an oyster bar where all that heaving and twisting is done for you. One of the best is in London and is called The Mother Shuckers.
One of the best gardeners is in Stornoway. He is Neil, who I have known for many years. He has been mowing, hoeing and pruning for many years.
I bumped into him in the pub the other night. During a lull in the conversation about crocuses, we looked at the TV and there was a severe weather warning about wintry weather coming. “You know what? I hate it when it snows,” moaned Neil. But, why? I wondered.
He said: “Because, for however long the snow is on the ground, it makes my lazy neighbour’s garden look just as good as mine.”
Iain Maciver is a former broadcaster and news reporter from the Outer Hebrides