COLUMN: February 9, 2012

IT has been quite cold this week, the sort of cold where one has to ensure one has a blanket, a torch, water and chocolate when one is undertaking a journey. Admittedly, this can lead to strange looks on the bus, but I don’t care because I am warm. And I have a torch.

I was disappointed that Liverpool did not get the benefit of some snow when the rest of the country was throwing snowballs at each other and tutting about planes not taking off. When ITV News said that passengers at Heathrow were “angry, frustrated and confused,” I was jealous. That is basically my default position, but at least they had snow.

Still, I am grateful there was plenty of ice around, which enhanced my trip to work on Monday immeasurably, and brought new levels of complexity to my Flatley Dodge. Complacency is the enemy of the successful execution of the Flatley Dodge.

I am sure you are familiar with the Flatley Dodge, but if not, it is the manoeuvre one does when one accidentally blunders into an area liberally scattered with dog mess. One’s feet dance about, in a desperate attempt to avoid the horrible parcels of doom, putting oneself in more danger, which must then in turn be avoided. The effect to the onlooker is that of Michael Flatley in Riverdance.

This feat is difficult enough to perform on these twilit mornings on solid ground. The introduction of ice makes it almost impossible.

So I was feeling pretty smug as I reached the bus stop after a successful display of Flatley action, heroic even. I looked at the other passengers, and wondered, like Heather Small, what they had done that day to make them feel proud.

It was deathly cold. My breath hung in the air, white and puffy, like a speech bubble from the mouth of a cartoon character with nothing to say. I slipped my hand in my pocket to pull out my gloves and warm my numb hands, and 55p fell out of my pocket, one fat 50-pence piece and one little shilling.

I bent over and retrieved the 50p with my gloves on. Then I went for the five-pence piece.

I have written before about the difficulty of picking up a five-pence piece. And yet, here I was, trying to pick one up. It was Albert Einstein who said the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In my defence, I had never tried doing it with thick gloves on before.

That didn’t work. So I took the gloves off, and tried again. For future reference, it is just as difficult with hands numbed by the bitter cold. I might as well have tried to pick it up with an amusement arcade grabbing claw made of sausages.

I could have left it there. Maybe I should have, as a reward for anybody who was able to pick it up – Excalibur, stuck in the stone.

But I was keenly aware that an entire bus shelterful of people had watched, with varying levels of interest, my attempts to pick up one lousy coin from the pavement. It was a dilemma: look like the sort of idiot who makes a couple of attempts to pick up a small denomination coin, then leaves it; or look like the sort of idiot who makes as many attempts as necessary to pick up a small denomination coin?

I made the decision, and went for the crouch. Five pence is five pence, after all. I tried a couple more times, scraping my poor fingers on the rough flagstones.

Then inspiration struck. I whipped out my Donot Card – the laminated card I made some time ago to ensure that, in the event of my death, I would not be the subject of a Facebook tribute page – and used it to scrape the coin towards the mortar between flagstones.

Then I pushed the corner of the card into the tiny gap under the coin, and flipped it up into the palm of my hand with a flourish.

I don’t think the other passengers were as impressed as I had hoped. If only they had seen my Flatley Dodge.

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