This winter Pete, my fox terrier, has been conducting a series of terrifying experiments in thermodynamics. He’s been testing, for example, how close to a fan heater it is possible to sleep - without melting his eyeballs.
Surviving these risky experiments has made Pete a huge fan of the scientific method. So much so, that his latest experiment involves not just thermodynamics, but gravity as well. As soon as the sun hits the couch, he arranges himself along its back and adopts the lateral snooze position – front and hind legs extended in opposite directions, head on paws, eyes closed. He then lowers himself deeper and deeper into sleep, relaxes to the point of utter catastrophe and ... this is the point of the experiment ... wakes himself a fraction of second before he topples from his perch.
His other experiments seem rather tame by comparison. In one of these more pedestrian experiments he’s been testing how speedily the canine bladder can be emptied when the lawn is white with frost and a dog is bare of foot.
Another tests the length of time he can skulk outside in the winter, when my syrupy blandishments make it patently clear that I’m calling him in for a bath. In the summer he can elude capture indefinitely. In the winter he’d rather submit to water and shampoo than frozen paws.
For someone as sensitive to the cold as me, winter means abandoning all pretensions to style. What looks dashing on ski-slope or mountaintop looks plain daft in the city. Unless of course you don’t mind looking like a shambling bear for whom acts of fine motor coordination are almost impossible - try winkling a coin out of your wallet while wearing mittens and you’ll get the idea.
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time, long ago, when achieving my ideal body temperature did not require the simultaneous application of electric blanket and hot water bottle. I can remember sploshing in winter gutters as a kid and thrilling to the torrent of icy water pouring over the top of my gumboots. I can remember lifting up panes of ice from frigid puddles with naked hands.
Something must happen to your internal thermostat as you age. It’s the only way to explain why, on days when I’m in full alpine regalia, young women can expose midriffs, shoulders and thighs but not a single goosebump. The older woman has just one advantage in winter, and that’s the ability to generate the occasional hot flush. However, this extraordinary talent has a serious downside. If you are encased head-to-toe in a wind-proof, rainproof, ultra-loft goose-feathered garment a sudden hot flush can be near fatal. Because, of course, being too hot is just as deadly as being too cold.
I think winter clothing for the menopausal woman is a lucrative market niche which Kathmandu has completely overlooked. I’m going to suggest clothes featuring a quick release mechanism which enable the wearer to rip them off when a hot flush hits. Lives could be saved.
It was just as I was resigning myself to spending the rest of my life at sub-optimum temperatures, a friend handed me a newspaper clipping about “Furries”. Immediately I was suffused with a warm glow and the conviction that a cosier future lay within my grasp. I’m going to join this little-known subculture whose fondness for fluffy and furred animals finds its expression in the wearing of fur suits on social occasions. I ask you, what better way to keep warm and meet interesting people? I can be snug all winter in my fake-fur long-johns and as my animal Fursona develops and I attend ConFurences, there will be fascinating new social horizons to explore as well.
I’ve already planned my first foray into this brave (and cosy) new world of anthropomorphism. First, I’m going to sew myself a Fox Terrier outfit and then Pete and I are going to attend this year's FurcoNZ conference in Auckland - see www.furry.org.nz for details.
Some of these furry gatherings have had negative media attention. However, a reporter attending one such get together in the U.S. reported that "despite their wild image from Vanity Fair, MTV and CSI, Furry conventions aren't about kinky sex between weirdos gussied up in foxy costumes".
Oh well. You can’t have everything.