Brrrr! Wrap up warm, because it’s cold outside! Well, it would be, wouldn’t it, this being the Ice Age. There have been other Ages – Stone and Iron, for example, and Bronze – but this one we have dubbed the Ice Age, because it is so chilly. Sitting here next to my oil stove, wearing various furry animal pelts, it is easy to forget just how cold it is outside. I can’t see through the windows, because they are all frosted up, but I suppose if I turned down the volume on the cassette player I would be able to hear the howling winds of the blizzard, and they would serve to remind me of the cold. But I would rather listen to the cassette playing poptones, quite frankly. I am not in the right mood for howling.
The wind howls, and so do wolves. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish one kind of howling from another. Wolves seem to thrive in the chilly chilly weather of this Ice Age. They have furry coats of course, or at least hairy, bristly coats, au naturelle, as it were. To obtain my furry pelt I have to slaughter apt creatures, or at least pay someone to do so for me, to slaughter and skin and stitch. I am somewhat weedy, and short-sighted, and I would much rather huddle by the oil stove listening to poptones than be out there in the cold, hunting and stalking. In any case, I do not have a pair of snow shoes, so I wouldn’t get very far. Within a few feet of my door I expect I would be up to my waist in snow, and helpless, and I would have to make puny cries, in the hope that a tough wolf-hunter would come to my rescue.
At least you know where you are with wolves. Those rampaging wild boars are another matter entirely. Blimey. I have been woken from a nap by the sound of them battering their tusks against the walls of my hut. I am pretty sure it was a wild boar, covered in hoar frost, that chewed through the wiring of my radio set. I thought the wiring was safe, submerged under snow, stretching out across the tarputa, but those boars are relentless. Now I can only get some of the channels, and none of the music ones, which is why I rely on the cassette player.
Ice Age music is pretty grim, all told, but when the alternative is the howling of wind and wolves and the bashing of boar-tusks against the walls, you have to take what you can get. And it’s not all bad. I grew quite fond of Chepstow’s Icicle Symphony, for example. But the tape was ruined when I left it too close to the oil stove, and it partly melted. So now I make do with poptones, icy poptones, with lots of synthesizer. At top volume, it drowns out the howling.
I used to have a pair of snow shoes. Of course I did, for how else would I have been able to cross the tarputa and make it to my hut? It took me six weeks to get here, plodding slowly. I meant to hang on to them, for emergencies, but the fibre they were made from was highly flammable, and one evening the oil stove spat out a stray spark which ignited them. I acted quickly, putting on a pair of mittens and chucking the burning snow shoes out of the door, into a snowdrift. If I hadn’t, the whole hut would have burned down and I’d have been a goner. But it means that now I have to rely on passing wolf-hunters for certain essentials. They can be a difficult lot.
I got so fed up with the rampaging wild boars battering their tusks against the walls that I thought I’d fashion some kind of boar-trap. I asked one of the wolf-hunters for help. In return for soup, I hoped he would dig a pit outside, a few feet away from the door, into which the boars might topple, and having toppled, perish. The rascal ate my soup but said he was a wolf-only hunter, and couldn’t be distracted in his career by digging a pit for boars. He was huge and violent, so I didn’t argue.
I may no longer have the Icicle Symphony to listen to, but I have plenty of icicles. They hang from the ceiling, in their hundreds, and occasionally I pluck one off, to suck, or to use as a little spear. Sometimes I will use the same icicle for both spearing and sucking, turn and turn about, until my sucking has made it useless for spearing. The icicles are a bit too big to use as pins, and funnily enough I have discovered I have absolutely no need of pins, here in my hut. I have got along quite well without a single pin. That surprised me, but there it is.
Apart from the fiendish cold, the reason I don’t go out much is fear. Call me namby-pamby, but I am terrified of the twin perils of snow-blindness and piblokto. The wolves and the rampaging wild boars I think I could handle, using a combination of mesmerism and gibberish, but neither of those is of much use where the ruination of one’s eyes and one’s mind is at stake. I have noticed that the wolf-hunters all seem to be equipped with very natty sunglasses, which presumably protect them against snow-blindness. Whether they have something similar to guard their brains I do not know. They are not a talkative lot. Oh, they will gobble down the soup you proffer them, but that’s as far as it goes.
On one of the radio stations I am still able to pick up, I heard the other day that the Ice Age might be coming to an end. Some pundit in the studio was wittering on about all the snow melting, across the tarputa, for as far as the eye could see, revealing a buried landscape, a vista of salt flats. It sounded to me as if his vision was little different from the snowbound land of the Ice Age. But I suppose if it does get warmer I might go out from time to time, though I am not sure to what purpose. I don’t put salt in my soup, never have.