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Open Features: Immune To The Elements

With snow and ice holding Britain in their freezing grip columnist Mary Pilfold-Allan asks a pertinent question: "Have those born after 1980 been blessed with a central heating gene that the rest of us have been denied?''

It is only three in the afternoon and already the temperature is well below zero in Cambridge city centre. Freezing fog is obscuring King’s College Chapel like a veil hiding the face of a shy bride and the stone passageway beside the Senate House is so cold that brass monkeys are banned for health and safety reasons. Do you get the picture? The question I ask is, have those born after 1980 been blessed with a central heating gene that the rest of us have been denied? If so, can we clone it and thus save ourselves huge heating bills and our government the need to continue winter fuel payments?

It’s like this, in one of the world’s centres of excellence for education, where only the brightest and the best can hope to roam, young ladies who may well become the Margaret Thatchers, Einsteins or business baronesses of tomorrow are striding around in nothing but black tights and a sweater that, clinched in at the waist with belt, then masquerades as a dress. Their male counterparts on the other hand, tend to proclaim their prowess in the over-wintering of the species stakes by playing Frisbee on college grounds that are covered in two inches of snow and ice, manly chests clad only in a short-sleeved T-shirt.

Observing all this from within the depths of my multi-layers, I puzzle how the blood does not freeze in their veins, their extremities are not affected by frostbite and they can still remain a healthy pink and not turn artic blue?

Yours truly has made a similar observation in my own edge-of-fen village. Young men stride around all year long in shorts. When the weather is bad they may make a concession to it and don an anorak and a pair of Wellingtons, but the shorts remain. The edge-of-fen female prefers a nice mix of leggings and a skimpy top bearing a witty saying or graphic picture - come rain or shine.

As for local school children, they would appear to be even hardier. Our over elevens have to travel by bus to senior school and the bus leaves here in wintertime in the cold light of early day and returns as darkness descends. The youngsters often have to wait several minutes in the morning for the bus to arrive; they know that but guess what, they prefer to shiver wearing only a cardigan or jumper rather than be seen out in a ‘coat’.

What will be the future outcome of all this ‘exposure’ to the elements? Are the post 1980 mortals on a steep learning curve that will result in a race of hardened individuals ready and waiting for the next ice age? Or is it that being young means you have to be ‘cool’ – in more ways than one. This latter question is one I should very much like to ask of youths who wear their jeans so low slung that the crotch of the garment hangs about level with their knees. Is it a form of air conditioning, a necessary requirement to circulate a draught to parts that other draughts cannot reach? If it really is a fashion statement, then all I can think of is, they have been fooled, a touch of the emperor’s new clothes. There is a fine line between sartorial and silly!

Years ago when I was at an age to wear a mini skirt, older members of the family ruefully told me I would regret it when I got older; that I would suffer from rheumatism and perhaps worse, whatever that was. Of course I continued to wear my mini and thought that their doom and gloom was an empty threat. I am not so certain now. When my daughters traipsed around in garments that left vast areas of midriff adrift, the doom and gloom words dropped from my lips in much the same way as the generation before me. Did they take any notice? Of course they didn’t.

I am now waiting to see how they cope when their offspring come home with an H&M bag stuffed with little bits of nothing and refuse to believe that they will feel the cold? But I forgot, my grandchildren would almost certainly have acquired the central heating gene as part of natural evolution.


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