Hung Up On Hygge
7th November 2016
The heating has broken.
Low growls and burps are squeezing out of the old iron ribbed frame of the radiator, almost like the death throes of a wounded squirrel. It’s irritating to listen to and, when combined with the fact it might be about three degrees in the flat, it’s even more irritating to attempt living with.
My carbon copy cousin, Pat, is sitting at the table wearing three layers reading his Sunday Times. He has possibly an inch more body fat than me, so I have gone for the Stalinist era Gulag winter collection look with a record breaking 5 layers. This is a familiar sight for a Sunday; him with his paper and beer, me tending to the pasta pomodoro and what little bit of meat we are having for our secondi – except today there is a waxy, zeitgeist intruder in our midst.
Between us, on our cold, white plastic ikea table, is a tragic Wilkinsons scented candle – the type that could find itself at the centre of a midweek tabloid newspaper article about the cancerous dangers of cheap air fragrances.
“What on earth is he doing here??” I painfully fire at Pat through chattering teeth.
“It’s Hygge.” (pronounced “hIgehhh” in his Yorkshire drawl).
“It’s cold Pat, but not cold enough for you to lose your mind and name a cheap old candle.”
“No, it’s Hygge…” (again, with Yorkshire drawl) “…it’s in my paper today, it’s the concept of Danish cosiness in the autumn months.”
I look around the flat.
Bare white walls, a cold stone floor and a cheap disposable collection of generation Y furniture, designed in Sweden and made in China. In the window pane, there is a millimeter of glass separating us from Autumn’s premature bite, through which the golden leaves are struggling to cling onto their frail branches in, what is turning out to be, a hooley of a wind.
The single handleless pan is merry enough, full of the last of the summer tomatoes from Calabria, temporarily restoring the warmth and heat through memories and smell. It’s a little black and red island of warmth in a grey, atlantic coloured kitchen of October man despair. If he thinks a £1 candle will redeem any of this, he must be crazy.
Shivering I pull the chestnuts Pat bought (again, for the sake of Hygge) out the oven, to link up with my more favoured Sunday treat of guanciale (cured pigs jaw) and fresh, chilled red Novello. Real terrone man food.
The warmth of the tray temporarily kickstarts my fingers. A chestnut explodes like a danish cosiness IED (Improvised Explosive Device), showering the room in a fine yellow pebble dash.
I look at Pat, who he bursts out laughing, and I concentrate my chestnut encrusted eyebrows at him. Pat stops laughing. Pat gets out the lazy man mini hand-hoover and vacuums like his lunch depended on it.
Pat’s candle, his futile attempt of a burnt offering to the ancient Danish gods of Hygge, is failing to work its charm and, if anything, amplifies our tragic seasonal plight.
Quentin Crisp famously said that the world was a club he never felt part of and, I have to say, after becoming intrigued on that cold Sunday afternoon and researching Hygge thoroughly, I came to a similar conclusion. If you are a semi-single man in your thirties, living with your younger single man cousin, you haven’t got a chance of Hygge. Sorry to smash your dreams out of the park, but it’s unachievable. Prepare for a cold, bleak miserable winter, temporarily alleviated by a nip of a blended whisky or a snatched episode of Peep Show under the bed covers while shivering.
I have to admit, I was initially taken in. I read Pat’s article in the Sunday Times, even ventured out to some department stores which are the supply fortresses of middle class comfort, and browsed soft furnishings. New bedding? New throws? Candles? A rug for the cold kitchen floor? It all seemed futile when I applied my brain, a character that has been shaped by prolonged periods of little to no female influence or domestication.
Me: “That tartan rug would look nice on the bed. Would be warm too, could wrap it round me on a cold day when I am writing in the kitchen.”
Brain: “Are you going soft? Is your surname Rothschild and you’ve found a stack of gold in the boiler cupboard? You’ve got a perfectly good Man City training top from 2011 in the cupboard and I am sure your long johns are lurking in the Sports Direct holdall in the spare room.”
I stand and dwell on this as happy couples, families and shop assistants seem to waltz around me in a time lapse/dream sequence. I contemplate for a while, temporarily placing my hesitation about diving into Hygge squarely on the Libran’s inability to make decisions. Then it becomes clear:
Me (internally to brain): “You are totally right, how could I be so daft? Let’s get out of here and spend that money on a new pair of hand wraps for the gym and if there is money left, I will knock off a few more of your cells with a cold one.”
So that was that. The Hygge expedition was over, the promised land of Danish winter comforts cast aside like the other lifestyle fads I have attempted and rejected almost immediately. So long Danska, go join your friends “Hydration Diet” and “Utilitarian Living”. This fella is not for changing, not just yet at least.
You see, we already have a great approach to the winter months, something my mate Tristan initially labelled as “Zen Sunday”, now re branded to “Med-Man-ZenDays”. A combination of manly pursuits, Mediterranean living (yes, even in the depths of winter, this is achievable) and the day of rest (Sunday) combined with Zen like tranquility.
Simply put: we wake up late, engage in some positive, feel good sports either as an observer (Hackney Marshes Sunday league is top of the list) or participant (Gym – Sauna). This may be followed by a few cold pints, bar snacks and more sporting activity (darts).
We follow this by parking back up in our own kitchen and whacking the central heating to thirty, closing all the windows and imagine we are somewhere around the Southern hemisphere. Again, to enhance the experiential qualities of this scenario, probably best to don a vest and shorts and get the cold beer flowing again. We always make sure that a 4-5 course lunch, lasting upwards of 5 hours minimum and following the Italian meal structure of Antipasti (starter), Primi (first course), Secondi (seconds) and dolce (pudding, usually more wine or grappa) are observed for the sake of moral decency.
Around late afternoon/early evening, Zen levels are through the roof and, through the comforting fog of all that you have imbibed, a simple choice of getting into bed to watch one of the many fine Rocky films or heading back out to the pub is all that remains open to you.
Either way you will be leaving the smug Hygge mongers in the dust.