It's a winter's morning on a blustery station platform. A line of inappropriately attired, angry people produce storm clouds of breath. Red ears, a loss of feeling in the fingers and chapped lips can do that to a commuter. Then someone saunters past. They're wearing a combination of super-light, wind-proof and water-resistant technology stuffed with down feathers. The warmth hugging their body is matched only by the heat generated by their self-satisfied cheeks.
Thanks to Father Christmas – who brought me my new coat – I have joined the ranks of the down-sporting smug. Just in time, too. According to the Met Office, Britain is experiencing its coldest winter in 25 years. The AA says December was our most frozen in 13 years, and snow is expected across central and eastern England today, and the South East tomorrow. But is my jacket's "800-fill-power" goose down really the best way to keep toasty?
"The most important thing is layering," says Claire Lehman, talking from Rothera on the coast of Antarctica, where she works as a medical doctor for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). "Wearing several thin layers is better than just having a thick jacket. Long johns are a good way to start. Follow them with a fleece and a warm jacket. Invest in some good- quality gloves. When you get cold the blood is diverted away from the surface of your hands making them feel even colder."
Her fellow BAS medic Matt Edwards says we should aim not to sweat. "When it evaporates it makes you colder," he says. "Carry the layers with you if you're going to be reasonably energetic." He says we shouldn't touch metal, water and petrol, which conduct heat away from the body. Avoid going out when drunk – we don't feel damaging levels of cold, our blood vessels dilate and we haemorrhage buckets of heat. Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf, because it warms the air up before it hits your lungs.
Things have come a long way since 1924, when George Mallory attempted to climb Everest wearing layers of the tightly-woven fabric gabardine, wool, cotton and silk (though his disappearance on that trip is still unexplained). Inuits traditionally donned a double-layer of caribou skin before venturing into the bluster. Football commentator John Motson favours a sheepskin jackets over a suit. Whatever your method, it all comes back to one thing: layers, layers, layers. Looks like I'll have to get Santa back on the blower to request some vests. Rob Sharp
Hair today, hair tomorrow
It's a prickly question: how does the sophisticated man-about-town maintain an acceptable crop of facial stubble – without losing his edge or crossing the line into hippydom? Conventional razors are useless, and while there's nothing new about electric beard-trimming devices, most seem to suffer from a worrying lack of precision, meaning all it takes is a nanosecond's inattention to turn you from Grizzly Adams to Matt Lucas. Imagine my delight, then, to unwrap the new contraption from Babyliss, the i-Trim Stubble+, a sleek new "stubble management system" that glides effortlessly across the chin and maintains the facial undergrowth at a perfectly respectable 0.5mm, day in, day out. Neato. Adam Leigh
The lothario logarithm
Peter Biskind's new biography of Warren Beatty claims that the 72-year-old actor has slept with approximately 12,775 women. Let's be generous and guess that Beatty reached puberty early – at 10, say – and has never cheated on his wife of 18 years, Annette Bening. That leaves him almost 45 years (or just over 16,000 days) for getting laid indiscriminately. Beatty has disputed the figure, and yet it seems plausible: less than one dolly a day, meaning he could take Mondays off. And, as Beatty's fellow 1970s swordsman Hugh Hefner might attest, you could always enjoy more than one at a time if you need to maintain your stats. Tim Walker
2010's sales: big savings but slim pickings
With booze and fattening food firmly off limits in the post-festive fitness scourge, one of the few vices left to liven up the boredom of being good in the new year is discount shopping. But while ubiquitous 50 per cent off signs stuck in every window, the recession and Boxing Day start dates might suggest that this year's discounts are the best sales that the world has ever seen, consumers should shop cautiously because, I'm afraid, what's left at this stage is fast becoming slim pickings.
The concept of the January sales is actually so last year, so Noughties. This season, most of the real bargains were snatched off the shelves by 26 December as retailers aimed to condense the most intense shopping into around a week and make way for the new season's products, thus minimising the amount of time their shops looked like rumpled jumble sales. Consumers duly decided they prefer being elbowed in the face in a department store scrum to small talk with dreary relations, and a record number of shoppers turned out.
However, according to the market researcher Synovate, by last Saturday shopper numbers were down 3.3 per cent on last year. Many shops have also had less stock to discount because they bought more cautiously or arranged flash reductions throughout the year to boost sales. It might only be 5 January, but the slim sales pickings that are left are more likely than ever to be dregs. Carola LongReuse content