Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Palm Trees In The Snow and Other Surrealities

THURSDAY: I'm eating my lunch while I'm working today. As the snow is over a foot high outside, I am part of the university library's "skeleton staff", one of the handful who could make the long trek from home. I considered not coming, but as one of my huskies needed to return a library book, I hitched up the dogs and sledged my way through the tundra and the drifts, avoiding the drifters along the way no matter how charming they seemed with their denim jackets, cowboy hats, and folksy manners. (Don't worry, it's only snow-related delirium).

As the book sorter churns and chugs away, sucking the books down its conveyor belts and hurling them into bins like a dystopian book-destroying Fordian monster, I'm curled up around my Stilton sandwich, drying my soaked stocking feet in the flames of the hot papaya chutney that garnishes the Stilton. It will be a short day and soon I'll need to start the trek back home. I've got some nuts in my rucksack in case I get stranded along the way. And I can always huddle up with the dogs to stay warm.

FRIDAY: Only in England could I find myself sitting in a giant glass dome, bundled up in fleecy layers, shivering under palm trees and spinning ceiling fans. The tropical plants look charming in that eccentric Victorian-British-Garden sort of way against the backdrop of snow. This is Sheffield's Winter Garden in its intended form.

Lunch is a vegetarian pepperoni and cream cheese sandwich with sun-dried tomatoes, spring onion, and red pepper, and my fruit is slices of apple, satsuma, and blackberries. It's like a cold pizza and a very confused salad.

THE FOLLOWING MONDAY: Today I'm trying not to wolf my sandwich down, as I was very late to work because I spent 45 minutes waiting for a bus that never came. The trampled snow is becoming icy and nothing is guaranteed. My washing machine flooded the kitchen floor this morning, I saw what appeared to be a dead woman on the icy pavement, my staff card has just snapped, and life is becoming very stressed and strange.

But my sandwich is good: Tesco jalapeño and red pepper houmus with a smearing of "quesito" -- a cheese spread surprisingly from Germany and reminiscent of white Velveeta -- on a very fresh brown breadcake. It deserves tasting, so I'm taking my time. The library and the books and the students can all wait.

TUESDAY: Today day started off on a better note. I left the house intending to walk (or crawl, as the trampled snow is turning to black ice). But when I noticed the group of people at the bus stop I learned a bus had been by five minutes earlier, so I decided to wait. And sure enough, another bus came along well before I had turned into an ice queen. And I actually got to work on time.

It was a much more settling experience than yesterday's Blue Velvet-style eeriness. My sandwich today is feta with some Jamie Oliver basil pesto and sun-dried tomato. I must admit I'm disappointed with Jamie, because his prepared pesto just isn't as good as most jarred pestos I've tried. Obviously, freshly-made is far superior, and I'm sure if he had prepared it from scratch in my kitchen it would have been very fine.

I've always though of snow as a silent phenomenon because it makes no sound when it falls, changing a landscape overnight like a stealth weather front. But at this point the snow has become quite noisy, especially when giant chunks of ice decide to jettison themselves down off the angled rooftops of these Yorkshire stone terrace houses. One can only hope that every crash, scrape, and KABOOM! is simply the natural thawing of the ice and snow as opposed to one's house gradually collapsing under the weight.

Or maybe it's small animals scurrying around in the crawl spaces. After all, it is quite cold outside...

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