While I write this post, the whole of the UK is enjoying the earliest proper snow for, ooh, donkey's years. Children are rushing, rosy cheeked, to the tops of nearby hills in order that they might sled down the other side; bescarfed adults are cupping their frost-bitten hands around convenient glasses of warming mulled wine; cats are stretching lazily in front of the fire while outside a muffled carpet of white perfection wipes away the harsh modernity of everyday living. And throughout all pervades the calmness that only the knowledge that your school/college/workplace will be shut on Monday can bring.
Oh, wait. All except Manchester. We have no snow. At all. I have spent a fretful day keeping one eye on the sky, which has remained a stubborn shade of bright blue, and one eye on Twitter, where friends in other parts of the country have been merrily posting pictures of themselves larking about in attractive knitwear. This is most unfair, for I would like nothing more than to wrap up warm, trudge through the snow, and take refuge in a welcoming hostelry where I will be plied with warming hot toddies. So to that end, I am going to PRETEND there is a winter wonderland outside rather than a row of wheelie bins, and post my favourite real fire pubs anyway.
1. The Didsbury, Didsbury. Obviously this is a great pub at any time of year, but becomes a particularly attractive prospect when the weather is cold - be prepared to push, shove and generally play dirty in order to bag the seats by the fire.
2. The Metropolitan, West Didsbury. A couple of provisos with this one: drinks are dear, and although the fire IS glorious, it is quite phenomenally, ridiculously hot - hapless young women have been known to singe their eyebrows by venturing too close to its flamy charms.
3. Horse and Jockey, Chorlton. A local favourite that has survived a recent overhaul to retain its traditional charms: open fires and the kind of low beams that anyone over four feet tall has trouble avoiding *rubs head*
4. The Crown Inn, Stockport. I'm not always in a hurry to recommend a night out in Stockers, but if you have boys in tow this is an excellent choice - CAMRA Greater Manchester Regional Pub of the Year 2008, no less.
5. The Britons Protection, Manchester. On a balmy summer evening you may find yourself queueing up amongst an impatient crowd of impeccably shod stick creatures to pay a tenner for a cocktail at Cloud 23; in the winter you'd be far better cosying up in this charming boozer just across the road.
So surely a light dusting isn't too much to ask? Frankly, if it doesn't snow tonight I'm simply going to don my mittens and my overpriced sheepskin boots and go and sit by a fire somewhere anyway. Woe betide ANYONE who gets in my way...