Interesting time of the year for watching how other people shop. That's a euphemism for standing around tutting and rolling my eyes.
We all know about Flustered Shopper - the person who gets to the counter, watches all their things go through then wakes out of a trance to realise that these need to go in their bag-for-life and that they must then voyage through their pocket Narnia for their purse/wallet, try and find exact change or some helpful approximation of it, get distracted by a baby picture on the inside of the wallet, sigh a little and then start gathering their purchases and bags together as though they are faithful Sherpa Tensing about to trek to the roof of the world.
We are all Angry Self Checkout Shopper. Nothing more needs to be said about this, although one day I pray the NHS Suicide Booths use this voice. Oh, and M&S have got rid of them juts as Tesco have decided that they are the way forward. I wonder their staff don't have riot gear.
Finally, this year I saw Rude Fashion Shopper. She was dressed like she worked for Sgt Pepper and was clearly on her way somewhere fabulous, just stopping off for 10 menthol at the corner shop. She plucked an immaculate fiver from inside her cape and then CRUMPLED it before dropping it into the hand of the assistant like a used hankie. What?
First there was the Richard Dennen's gay column in the Evening Standard, now my friend Ashley has found A weekend eating Poundland food. The article's joy sings from word to word, but you will go BANG at "my daughter, Dory... if she saw the pink label Heinz Barbie pasta in tomato sauce she would never eat broccoli or quinoa again!"
As Ashley points out, the Standard champions itself as the paper of the dispossessed - then runs a sneering article about Poundland food. As someone comments on the article "You don't do your weekly grocery shopping in Poundland any more than you do in WH Smiths."
Earlier this year, my friend Gary did a play called Mrs Reynolds And The Ruffian. It was about many things, including an old lady brightening up her estate by planting flowers in the abandoned plots. Through it she forms an unlikely friendship with a wayward youth. LIFETIME AMBITION.
Ever since, I have been doing this on my estate - with shrubs and bulbs almost entirely from pound shops. You get a fucking hardy rose bush from Poundland - if it can sit for three months on a shelf tied up in elastic bands, it can survive the nuclear winter that is Somerstown.
It's a brilliantly satisfying thing to do - and an utterly unaffordable bit of whimsy without pound shops (I am mean and selfish - this is as good as I get). The other day while I was working on a bed, a woman rapped me on the shoulder and asked me what I was doing. So I told her.
"Good," she said, "Council says we don't deserve flowers."
Yes, the frost has dented the primroses, but my quid bulbs are still ticking away, along with roses, redcurrants, and lord knows what else but it-looked-nice-on-the-box. All from a pound shop. Take that, yummy mummy.
The cold weather brings out the best and the worst in people. At the moment, you probably can't move for Facebook updates about heroic journeys into work or valiant battles with the central heating. We all deal with these things in different ways.
The cat, for example, wakes me at four every morning to inform me that it is still cold. Considering that Cat has stolen entire duvet, this seems a bit rich. Especially as Cat then sticks its head out of the cat flap, drains all the heat from the flat, and then posts itself back under the duvet. As I said, we all deal with these things differently.
It does seem to be an excuse to go and stand at train stations screaming at staff. At Kings Cross this morning I overheard a woman railing "But I have to go to my cousin's funeral. It's so inconsiderate of you". I mean, seriously, what? Apart from anything else, it's plain common sense that shouting at ticketing staff isn't really going to make four foot of snow go away. A couple stood at a window, pounding on the glass and swearing. I mean, really, why? It would perhaps be excusable if staff weren't going out of the their way to be helpful, working the queues, and generally being as friendly as slightly-too-polite Aunt Sally at a wedding.
I am currently working anywhere other than the flat. Yesterday I swapped the British Library for Camden Library, which was a mistake. The building sweated desperation and failure, miserable staff being constantly berated by weird people, all holding more-than-three Sainsbury's bags stuffed with bits of paper that they'd painstakingly unfurl at any moment. When I was a kid I wanted to be a librarian (lots of arranging books in the right order - how brilliant). Not any more.
Today I tried a coffee shop (yeah, way to rock the cliche - writing on a laptop in Costa). Oddly, a coffee shop is where the worst of humanity gathers in a smug. The staff all the have same panicked look that Lee from Steps wore throughout his time with the group, as though they're trapped in a nightmare working as baristas even though they've never made a cup of coffee before in their lives. The customers are worse. Putting me to one side there was....
1) Haughty lady who had brought her own sandwiches and was eating them under the table as though it was The Perfect Crime.
2) Two students planning a trip using a university travel grant. "Oh yeah, and what we'll do is we'll get Prakash to do the final proposal for us as he is very creative and will do whatever I ask him to. Now I think we should say here that we're walking the whole route, but in fact we'll just sit on that beach, yeah?"
3) Sensitive Girl. You know her - rainbow-jumper, lots of dolphin jewelry, skin paler than rice pudding, bag made of velvet. "Hi, I just wanted to check - I've a nut allergy, so will the caramel syrup be okay?" Pause. "Cos caramel's a nut, isn't it?"
Finally there are the loos in coffee shops. Getting in requires all the agility of a text-based adventure game from the 80s ("Get RECEIPT from CAROL. Go NORTH to BASEMENT. Use CODE on DOOR. Do not TOUCH any surfaces"). Once you're there it is a little bit like breaking in to Fort Knox to discover all the gold has gone. And there's just a puddle of wee and a really horrible smell.
The local Catholic school was founded by refugees from the French Revolution. I am interested in this. No-one else is.
While the rest of the country has proper snow, Camden has clearly cut back to just A Lot Of Cold. It's so so cold I've given up trying to heat the flat and am just wandering around in ski thermals. The cat has shut down completely. It may have died. Although something is still eating the cat biscuits.