A 21st Century Yokel

tom cox

©Jo Cox (from 21st Century Yokel by Tom Cox, Unbound)

I’m eagerly awaiting the new book by one of my favourite writers Tom Cox. 21st Century Yokel is out next week and will no doubt cement Tom as one of the nation’s best (and funniest) collector of tales from the British landscape.

The promise of a new book has led me back to Tom’s website and some of his past writing. As the temperatures plummet here in the valley and I’ve just seen the first Christmas advert of the year on the television(!), I was drawn to a piece entitled One Winter. I love it and hope Tom won’t mind me including an excerpt on this blog.

From One Winter by Tom Cox

“One winter I got utterly, fantastically lost in the TV series Box Of Delights to the extent that each time an episode of it was on I forgot my name and where I lived, and spent the cosy curtained early evenings on either side of it covered in glitter making Christmas decorations and cards with my mum, never realising it was the last winter in history when I would ever still feel properly like a child.

One winter we moved from a mortgaged house my dad grew to detest on an estate where all the other houses except ours seemed to have been burgled to a rented house in the countryside that my dad loved which did get burgled. A week before we moved in my dad drove to the rented house alone in the snow with some canvas, some paint brushes and acrylic paints and sat in an upstairs room of the house with a blanket on his lap painting the white valley he could see through the window in front of him.

One winter I returned from an encounter with some emotionally cold people and couldn’t seem to get warm and get on with my day, no matter how hard I tried. I gave up and got into bed with an old hot water bottle and spent several hours reading John Irving’s novel The Hotel New Hampshire and have rarely felt more content.

One winter I fell asleep on top of the same hot water bottle, which was by now even older, and it seriously burned my leg. The burn turned into an unsightly, furious blister and left a large scar, still clearly visible today when I am trouserless, which hints at a far more heroic backstory.

One winter I walked with Will and Mary past ice age pond-swamps and hairy cows that watched us dolefully from dark woods and we cracked the natural frosted glass skin on puddles with our heels and at the end of the walk we all admired the way the sun looked against the low white-red sky then realised it was actually the moon, not the sun.

One winter – well, actually it was spring, but it was a cold day, and felt like spring experiencing accelerated nostalgia for winter – I walked back from the pub with Pat and Rachel and Pat told us to look at the moon, which was shining amazingly brightly through the trees, and Rachel and I waited a minute or two before explaining to Pat that it was actually a streetlight, not the moon.

One winter I saw you on the path near town by the river, where I’d last seen you, in summer, when you’d smiled and said hello and, because I was talking on my mobile phone at the time to someone close to me about their hospital appointment, I’d not responded in the way I felt instantly compelled to. And now – we were heading in the opposite directions to the last time, in twice as many clothes, but in almost exactly the same spot – I did say hello, and you did too, and we both smiled and reduced our walks to slow motion for a split second as we passed and for some baffling reason, not even shyness, I didn’t stop to introduce myself and, even though I’ve decided lately that I don’t have regrets, that the experiences they normally centre around are life’s most strengthening and character-forming, ultimately rendering them redundant as a concept, I know that’s not quite true, because four days later I am an unchanged person and still regretting my decision to keep walking.”

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