Sipping my morning cuppa lounging about the patio in sun specs and a T shirt in early December is a novel experience. The stark contrast with the frigid Siberian winds that have plunged Albion into a mini ice age is not lost on me. My mother, a spritely, feisty 81 year old Ulsterwoman still young enough to run for buses, complains bitterly through chattering dentures that she is unable to leave the house for fear of a breaking a hip. She is not the kind of woman to be imprisoned for long. As a beautiful young girl she was swept off her feet by a penniless, pretty soldier boy with a twinkle in his eye. She was plucked from a small Irish town made famous by an IRA bomb and found herself on a slow boat to Malaya. I was a home birth in an army barracks which may explain my enduring fetish for uniforms.