When I went off to art college in Carlisle, an old tutor of mine told me that he'd done his national service in Norway and Cumbria. And that of the two places, Carlisle was by far the coldest. In fact, he claimed his rifle had frozen to his glove when on guard duty at the city's castle. Despite my initial scoffing, within months I was a believer. I was living in the Worst House In Cumbria (as we called it) having fled the nutjob of a landlady that the college's accommodation officer found me when I arrived. The Worst House In Cumbria was a small Victorian terrace near the Infirmary. Three of us lived there, but we only had two chairs. The bathroom 'window' was a fertilser bag. And it was cold that winter. So very, very cold. I came down one morning to find a good half inch of ice on the water in the sink. I always slept fully clothed, with all my other clothes on top of the duvet, and on top of that all the curtains that I found in a wardrobe. The place was so grim I would only return there to sleep, like some Dickensian urchin.
Fortunately, we had a warm and cosy sanctuary - our friends Joey and Nic's gaff a warming cycle ride away. Here there was central heating, hot soup and an ever-boiling kettle. And always on the stereo was this bloke (here with the equally incredible violin-ery of Stephane Grapelli), Django Reinhardt. His playing is even more impressive when you realise that only two of his fret fingers worked, the others being ruined in the fire that killed his first wife. He'd have been a hundred years old this month.