Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dave Taylor and the Five Coats

Dave Taylor in his mythical 6th Coat

Today we have a guest appearance from David Taylor. This piece originally appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 26, 2005 and appears to have been ripped off by inspired a writer for the Times Online.

Our winter: Snow wonder you need five coats: One down parka won't do

When hosting visitors to Ottawa, I sometimes get asked about the origin of our city's name. I usually reply that Ottawa is the Algonquin word for "place of the people who have five winter coats". While my facetious comment usually doesn't get more than a brief chuckle, truth be told, this city seems unique in its winter fashion. And it's not that we are overtly fashionable. If one owns five different types of winter coats, it's purely for practical reasons determined solely by the variability of climate we get between October and April. Here is the list of my five winter coats and the respective reasons for their necessity:

The Parka: According to Environment Canada, Ottawa has about 20 days every winter where the mercury dips below minus 20 Celsius. By comparison, Vancouver has never had a day that cold -- ever. But as one friend's grandmother use to say: there are no such things as cold days, just cold clothes. My parka has a Gore-tex shell, goose down insulation, and a hood that covers my head, protecting me from the wind chill. It's puffy and bulky and makes me look like the Michelin Man.

The Long Wool Coat: If it is dry with no wind chill and the temperature is hovering between minus 15 Celsius and minus 10 Celsius, I usually opt for my long wool coat. It has the benefit of keeping me moderately warm while appearing more fashionable than my parka. It is also a convenient coat to have if one is going to a restaurant or pub where there is a shortage of hanger space. It can be easily placed on the spare chair at the table for four when there are only three in your party. That's another thing about Ottawans: we strategically dine in threes during the winter to accommodate our coats.

The Car Coat: If I'm able to stay out of the elements altogether, this is my winter coat of choice. I'll also wear it when the temperature is between minus 10 C and zero, which in a typical Ottawa winter is about every other day. It also doubles as my outdoor sport coat and comes in handy for skating on the canal. It has a detachable hood and is semi-waterproof for those few days we get every year when the morning starts off fairly cold but ends with rain, or freezing rain.

The Freezing Rain Coat: Yes, we Ottawans really need a freezing- rain coat. The sad fact about the location and topography of Ottawa is that it is more prone to have freezing rain than many of Canada's other major cities. The problem with freezing rain is that while it freezes when it hits cold surfaces, it's more like a cold rain when it hits you; hence, the need for a winter raincoat. Mine has the added luxury of a removable liner so that I stay warm while it repells water.

The Late Fall/Early Spring Coat: This is the favourite of my five coats, probably because I rarely get to wear it. I sport it when the temperature is between -5 C and 5 C. That tends to be in the seasonal transition months of November and March. It's actually two coats in one since it's reversible (which I'm guessing is an Ottawa invention by someone with little closet space). It's leather on one side and wool on the other.

Having to keep a stable of five winter coats presents some challenges to Ottawa's citizens -- coat rack and closet space being the greatest challenge. There is no room for visitors' overcoats in our hallway, and this is a house inhabited by two people.

Global warming may change everything for our city's future citizens. Perhaps one day our winters won't require five coats. Our descendants will wonder with bemusement why all the old homes had so many wall hooks, closets, and extra bedrooms.Though I bet they'll still need a freezing-rain coat. Mother Nature would never be so kind as to deny Vancouverites some climate related fact to lord over us.

Here is the article at the Timesonline. I understand Dave is consulting his advisors about his next steps. (I don't know how much support I can be. I only have 3 winter coats. The long wool overcoat, the leather jacket I wear under my reflective biking jacket, and the ratty ski jacket.)


Anonymous said...

I just have one thing to add:

I know London. London in the winter is a friend of mine. It is not a five-coat town, and you, Mr. Delingpole, are no five-coat man.

Anonymous said...

There's a shocking case of plagiarism for you. Interesting how essentially the same concept can be so insightful and regionally relevant in one place and so contrived in another.

I thought he was talking about London, Ontario at first, which is at best a 3-coat town, but then I realized he was talking about London England - one could get by with little more than a raincoat and a sweater there.

Incidentally, I have a lovely chocolate brown suede coat that I never wear. That's because we never have suede weather in Ottawa. You need dry, mild, non-puddly-slush weather for suede. I've been waiting three years for a day like that.

coyote said...

I am not an expert on multiple coats. I have but one, and it automatically switches weights between summer and winter. However, I cannot help but wonder if Mr. Delingpole is a pseudonym. Or merely a pseud who should be sued.

Oops. gotta go. Here comes a guy who looks startlingly like Scrimshaw, who seems ready explain my lack of legal know-how with regard to copyright...

JuliaR said...

I remember reading the original article when it came out and thinking it was fun stuff. As a female, I also have five coats:

The long fake fur to look dressy and yet cover the knees (worn usually with a long skirt and tall boots for minimum exposure).
The shorter fake fur worn with pants.
The LLBean barn coat that is approaching 15 years of age and shouldn’t be worn under minus 5C.
The MEC GorTex dog walking jacket for rain or freezing rain (with hood).
The jean jacket that should not be worn under 8C (not really a winter garment, I know).

And then there are “the others” that should go to the Sally Ann - the long cloth coats that don’t allow for enough sweaters beneath them, the short cloth coats - ditto, the “rain” coat that just gets wet, etc.

And then there’s the footwear! Duck boots that aren’t tall enough for big puddles, gum boots that are but are very cold in icy puddles, hiking boots that get wet, and the almighty Sorel with the rubber bottom but the felt lining to insulate the feet. Not including the dressy boots.

Okay, this is too long for a comment. Sorry.

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