​As I batten down the hatches in response to the red weather alert, I see that Manny has mentioned me in a comment on Facebook – he is asking whether I have sufficient wine supplies!  Insulted?  No.  Funnily enough, the same thought went through my head …
Schools are closed, bridges closed, flights cancelled and the mode is definitely one of panic  but why?  We live in Britain, an island whose climate is one of four seasons – or was one of four seasons and winter meant snow.  We lived in a country town and had to drive ten miles to school but I don’t remember any red alerts.  As children, we looked forward to snow and, on the rare occasion when the heating broke down – or maybe the forecast was particularly bad – we were allowed home early.  It was exciting and fun and everyone just got on with it.  Happy days and a more intelligent world.
Perhaps we are alone in our inability to cope with snow?  Let’s face it, the climate in this country has more or less morphed into one long season of durge: dull, grey days, unusually mild with the obligatory strong winds and rain.  Is that just me?  I concede, we usually have a few days of sunshine in some random month – not necessarily together – coupled, in recent years, by a weird humidity.  Are we programmed to stay here?  The world is a great big place.
Christmas in Austria.  There was snow, this year, but it was not a great topic of conversation.  Miraculously, the roads are cleared and life goes on as the mantle of white descends on the mountains and fairytale villages nestled below creating not mayhem but, rather, a little bit of magic.  Talking of which, Rome in the snow?  Now that is magical … if not a little un-nerving.  One of Becca’s friends rushed out to build a snowman in front of the Colosseum – hard to comprehend – and, immediately, there were photographers everywhere.  Little wonder.  Perhaps a once in a lifetime shot?  Then again, perhaps not.  The world climate has become feral; Nature is all-powerful and us mere mortals, responsible for pulling the trigger, can only await her wrath. 
It is dark now, the snow is whirling outside and it is freezing; underfloor heating and lots of glass in the kitchen – not a good combination in this.  I have my second glass of wine beside me as I reflect on yet another difficult – and sad week with the announcement that Emma Chambers had died, suddenly.  She was only 53. 
I came late to The Vicar of Dibley but I absolutely adored it.  Charming and gentle, its humour lay in the childlike innocence of Alice and Hugo and the simplicity of a village and its characters seemingly devoid of life’s cruel nature.  Dawn French/Geraldine served, merely, as the foil; the kind foil who never mocked but, rather, shone a light on the heart of these people – and, in doing so, learned from them.  In a way, we all did.  Alice was magnificent; Emma Chambers was magnificent!  I shan’t forget her.
I have a post-it note – one of many – stuck on the shelf above the computer.  On it is written Music by Howard Goodhall and Christ church Choir, Oxford.  It refers to The Vicar of Dibley theme tune, a piece which immediately resonated with me, taking me back to my school days.  It would definitely be in my selection for Desert Island Discs along with …  Alright, never mock Donny!  I met him and he was deserving of every inch of space on my bedroom wall.
I considered writing about the Me, too campaign – or recounting my James Martin story – but I think this week needs buoyed by a bit of feelgood!  How about the background to a friendship which has been of immense support to me over the past months?  We have never met.
Becca , a former student at St Andrews, receives the Chronicle: the University magazine for alumni, friends and family.  As with my Edinburgh University equivalent, I am drawn straight to the ‘catch-up’ section and here, last Summer, I spied a photograph of an alumna and her partner in front of paintings of St Andrews.  Gold dust!  Uninspired by the usual tourist angle, I am forever in search of art which captures the heart of the historic town; its character, which goes far beyond the Swilcan Bridge and the R&A.  So, reading on, I learned that the paintings in the background were the work of Jane’s partner, the very talented Ben Mowll, a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists.  He had accompanied Jane on a visit to her old university town and captured its soul.  You know me and my must haves!  This one was for Becca.  Needless to say, I accepted Jane’s invitation to make contact, should one be interested in any of Ben’s exhibits, and I not only acquired a treasured painting for Becca but a great friend, to boot! 
Never underestimate the written word.  Jane and I have yet to meet but, since that first email of enquiry, we have been in touch almost every day since; quickly learning just how much we have in common, we also share a similar outlook on life which is heartening.  More sensible than me, I readily seek her advice and it is always forthcoming and honest.  Somehow, it was meant to be and that little girl who once collected penpals continues to do so today – albeit no pen involved.
Finally – slightly off-piste, or just more trash from Trish – I have never been to the birthplace of Shakespeare but, courtesy of Becca, I am looking forward to spending two nights in Stratford in June.  With tickets booked for Macbeth and The Duchess of Malfi, my only regret is that we are missing King Lear the week before.  One day …  Anyway, discussing the details with Manny, it led me to bemoan the general demise of Shakespeare on the school English syllabus.  Of course, I was lucky.  Betsy was passionate about her subject and instilled in us a lifelong appreciation of The Bard; however, it was, primarily, his tragedies which we studied and, to this day, I have little interest in the comedies.  Had my only foray into the works of Shakespeare been that of The Tempest or A Midsummer Night’s Dream – as was Manny’s – I suspect my enthusiasm may have lacked momentum.  Suffice to say, Manny – in a slip of the tongue – referred to A Midsummer Night’s Murder!  I rest my case.  That’ll be three tickets for King Lear
I leave you with a quote from Alice Tinker who never failed to make me smile.  Here, she is -in The Vicar of Dibley 10th Anniversary Christmas Special – referring to one of her more interesting style choices:
‘The look I’ve gone for is classic late Victorian meets My Little Pony.’
Oh, that the world had an abundance of Alice Tinkers!  R.I.P. Emma Chambers …
This is Trish, signing off.