The Wolf At The Door

Congratulations. You made it through January.

I’m not being facetious. The Saxons called it “Wulf-monath” or the “Wolf month” for a reason. It bites.

The Wolf At The Door

After the celebrations of December its cold, dark fingers again crawled inexorably across our wills and wallets like ice across a frozen pane.

It’s no surprise more people split up, separate and divorce in January. The time when the excesses of Christmas come home to roost in your liver, figure and bank account. It’s also the best time to be an undertaker.

This is all caused because the earth tilts slightly on its axis, making our planet slightly further away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere. Life is so fragile.

My partner’s youngest son is currently in Australia where he’s a gardener in the week and a cricketer at weekends.

In a weekly phone call to his mother, Sam complains about the venomous spiders and poisonous snakes hiding in his customers bushes (I’ll spare you the details) plus heat so blistering that standing on a cricket pitch even with cream on his nose and a hat on his sweating young head is equally as dangerous. Surprisingly, 40C degree heat does not stop him from partaking in “tinnies by the barbie”, which apparently is great for keeping the wildlife at bay. That’s his excuse.

Meanwhile spare a thought for those in the American Midwest where the polar vortex (trust the Americans to have a fancy name for it) has caused the mercury to drop to -27C in Chicago. Helpfully their local weatherman tweeted that meant frostbite in 30 minutes. The Chicago transit authority faced with contracting train tracks are setting fire to them.  

So January takes no prisoners. But as we shiver in the frozen North all is not lost. February is here.

OK, it’s not yet Spring but here’s the thing.

The Wolf at the door

Very gradually in the UK the days are getting longer. February also means Pancakes, Valentines and more opportunities for your local supermarket and card shop to part you from your hard-earned. But can you think of a better recipe to repair the damage of January than love and pancakes? What’s not to like? I’ll tell you.

Being alone.

Police Mental Health training is now mandatory for all front-facing staff and officers in my force as MH issues are now endemic. Support for those rejected, alone and/or facing domestic abuse is escalating, seriously unpublicised and desperately underfunded.

I was taught how to deal with someone who presents with mental health problems. I could have done with this 3 years ago when I sat a smartly dressed man down in a side room who told me there were talking lizards on his bedroom wall.

I’ve had several occasions when someone has been to me who has no idea who they are.

One lady was so lovely and apologetic, yet couldn’t remember anything. I had a unit drive her around the area in the hope she would remember where she lived to no gain.

Another man in the same situation sat in my reception for hours whilst we tried everything until I found a bus ticket in his pocket. The officer dealing tracked the CCTV on the bus and we found where he got on. That’s where the trail died.

All three of these people were eventually sorted at massive public expense. None of it made the papers because we don’t release it to protect them and their loved ones.

I say “loved ones” as someone had responsibility for them. Someone knew they were ill, left them alone and tied up the emergency services – and if you’re a taxpayer you picked up the bill.

This invariably happens out of office hours when councils and health professionals are more difficult to dig out. Grief does not stop at 5pm on a Friday.

Gradually however people are coming to realise help needs to be given 24/7, 365 to the emergency services because they are the people with whom the buck stops and who have loved ones too.

From the inner city streets of London where beggars are saved by outreach teams from being beaten up, to mountain rescue teams pulling unprepared climbers from the peaks of the Cairngorms, there are people risking their own physical and mental health to sort the problem at the coldest time of year.

Snowy Northern Britain in February is not all bad – even though Northern Rail do their best to ruin it by being permanently on strike at weekends. 

Car drivers hate snow (for good reason) but the white stuff looks amazing, lifts the spirits, is good for business and makes people wants to get out in it. The Victorians worked this out helped by Charles Dickens and the Thames freezing over.

We forget Britain lived through 300 years of a mini ice age between 1550 and 1850 when fires and candlelight were the only means of warmth and light at night. It might sound romantic but I’d have gas central heating every time. At least they didn’t have to use a credit card to scrape their windscreens.

So January may have done with us but February awaits.

My feeling is there is worse to come before we’ll finally see warmth and a way out – and whilst the wolf remains at the door, the vulnerable are at risk.

Perhaps I should paraphrase a line by Anthony Trollope from his 1858 novel Doctor Thorne. ITV let Julian Fellows mess with it in 2016, so why shouldn’t I?

“Let no-one boast themselves that they have got through the perils of winter till at least the seventh of May”. 

Did I say Brexit?