NOT everyone can be a hot-water bottle. It looks an easy life, stretched out in bed all night. But all that gurgling and burbling and radiating can wear you down. And the indignities! Scalding hot water poured into your bum and then shaken upside down to test you don't leak!
I raise this existential problem because Henry, my hot-water bottle in a fetching Mickey Mouse cover, is now in his 16th consecutive week of service with barely a night off since November.
A problem? It is, for him and me, having been assured by the relentless propaganda of the global warming industry that Henry could look forward to early retirement, basking in a sunny spot on top of the wardrobe, with those nights of gurgling and burbling and radiating behind him. Instead, he is working overtime in the front line against ... global cooling.
It is not just in Scotland that the long and earnestly prophesied onset of global warming has failed to materialise this year.
Across America, Europe and Asia, this winter has been a big brrr. Earlier this month, there were fresh falls of snow in Jerusalem. In China, snow and freezing weather brought dislocation and chaos on a massive scale. The worst storms in 50 years cut power supplies and transport links to millions of people.
In North America, eastern districts have been hit by abnormally high levels of snow, well above the 30-year average. Greece has been gripped with winter storms. Athens has been blanketed by 4in to 6in of snow.
South America has experienced one of its coldest winters in decades, with snow in Buenos Aires for the first time since 1918. In South Africa, Johannesburg had the first significant snowfall in 26 years. In Afghanistan, more than 750 people have died in the harshest winter for decades and the heaviest snowfalls in 30 years. Further east, in Indian Kashmir, snow has been falling at an exceptional rate, with the region's main highway to the outside world blocked.
In Western Greenland, temperatures of minus 30C have been recorded. Denmark's Meteorological Institute reports that the ice between Canada and south-west Greenland has reached its greatest extent in 15 years.
And in the Antarctic, where it is currently high summer, ice has increased to its highest level ever recorded at this time of year, some 30 per cent above normal.
January 2008 has seen the largest area of Northern Hemisphere snow cover for the period of 1966-2008, just slightly higher than the largest anomaly of January 1984, with February likely to exceed that.
Might it just be that we have got it all wrong? That we are heading, not for a period of global warming, but global cooling?
Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director of Canada's National Research Council, reports that solar activity such as sunspots "has been disturbingly quiet". This lack of activity could signal the beginning of what is known as the Maunder Minimum. While solar cycles tend to last about 11 years, the lack of normal activity can trigger the Maunder Minimum – an event that occurs every few centuries, can last as long as a century and which cools the Earth.
Tapping reports no change in the Sun's magnetic field so far this cycle, and if the Sun remains quiet for another year or so, it may indicate a repeat of the "Little Ice Age" of the 17th to 19th centuries, bringing massive snowfalls and severe weather.
Dr Oleg Sorokhtin, fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, recently published a paper asserting that a global cold spell could replace global warming. He believes that "Earth has passed the peak of its warmer period and a fairly cold spell will set in quite soon, by 2012. Real cold will come when solar activity reaches its minimum, by 2041, and will last for 50-60 years or even longer."
But I fear none of this is likely to placate the global warmists who see the cold winter as just part of the "underlying" (sic) story of global warming. Armageddon predictions continue to be made, the latest from the Health Protection Agency, warning that by 2112 there will be a one in 40 chance that a serious heatwave in the south-east of England will cause 3,000 immediate heat- related deaths.
It won't be long now before those reports are dusted down showing Scotland as a tropical paradise with Loch Katrine as a palm-fringed lagoon, orang-utans swinging through Aberfeldy and the residents of Morningside complaining of falling coconuts.
Faced with evidence of cooler temperatures, global warmists argue that any evidence of climate abnormality supports their case. Like this prediction for example: "…(the] weather gets progressively worse and tends towards extremes: heat waves and cold snaps, floods and droughts, frosts and snow in the tropics and bizarre hot weather as far north as Scandinavia".
Actually, this is from a publication by Lowell Ponte in 1976, sonorously entitled The Cooling: Has the Next Ice Age Already Begun?
Oh dear. I fear this article will see me buried under an avalanche of icy letters from the warmists. But, please, help me out here. Send me instead a new hot-water bottle. Henry's looking knackered.