FRIDAY 2 WEEKS AGO: It's much warmer today than it has been, meaning I don't feel inclined to wrap my scarf three times (or thrice, as the Brits say) around my neck or prance about like a hyperactive goat in order to keep from turning to ice while waiting for the bus. It's still cold, of course, and the nearby park is still a snowy wonderland and cars are still abandoned on the main road. But it is a useful respite when drivers can reunite with their cars and good citizens can dig out their recycling bins to dispose of the bottles, tins, and papers cluttering their kitchen floors. It's supposed to be very cold again in a few days, but one must take advantage of what one can take advantage of when one can -- if one is so inclined, that is. If one happens to be an expert procrastinator then there's always next spring...and other rooms in the house.
Lunch is simple today: the wonderful Wensleydale and cranberry cheese from the West Yorkshire cheese stall in the Christmas market, encased in a chewy seedy grainy Sainsbury breadcake. It's a perfect holiday sandwich. To the left of me in the Winter Garden a man nibbles on what look like leftover holiday snacks, and the man on my right is eating a pasta salad. It's like a party in the Winter Garden, except with no wine or punch or gin and tonics or crisps or music or funny hats.
THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY: Lunch on this post-general-anaesthetic blur of a day is Yorkshire Blue Cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and just a hint of cayenne on a white breadcake. The cheese is very much like Stilton, except seeing as how it's from further north I decided to forego my usual Jamaican chutney in favour of a little Euro-izing.
THURSDAY: Snow is threatening again, flakes flurrying in moments between rain and sleet. Much of Scotland is still dealing with the first snow that started in late November. It surprises me that the northernmost chunk of the UK can grind to a halt because of a heavy snowfall, when the northern parts of the USA expect snow and treat it as a part of winter life. Take Chicago, for example. At a latitude of 42 degrees North, which is 9 degrees south of London, Chicago's typical winter involves 38 inches (94 centimetres) of snow falling anywhere from October to May, so the city is well prepared to deal with it. Even the natives of Seattle, only 5 degrees further north, seem to be a snow-hardy lot.
When I first moved to the UK I was expecting snowy winters, especially as London is 4 degrees closer to the North Pole than Seattle -- and my current home of Sheffield is another 2 degrees closer still. So why does Royal Mail come to a grinding halt with a mere 8 inches of snow?
THE NEXT THURSDAY: It's the eve of Christmas Eve, it's 2 days after the Winter Solstice, there are still piles of snow from the November fall that are so frozen and dirty they appear to be petrifying, and the sky is attempting to snow again. For some reason the shoe shops don't have any sensible boots for snow, as if all of us Sheffielders are interested in stumbling and sliding around on the holiday ice on slick and ridiculously altitudinous heels. Sorry if I'm rambling a bit, but the family to one side of me in the Winter Garden are making way too much noise while the mutterings of the man on the other side is increasing in volume.
All I want for Christmas is for everybody to quit talking all the time, all at once. Whatever happened to quiet contemplation? Whatever happened to quiet conversation? Whatever happened to quiet?
I have to admit that even though I've lived in climates with snow for the past 2 decades, this is probably the first white Christmas I can remember. There may well have been others, but this one is already cementing itself in my memory because of all the white-Christmas accoutrements I see everyday: kiosks selling roast chestnuts, jackfrost nipping at my nose, the current year's fashion of furry boots and knit ski caps, and the unbelievably massive fake Christmas tree in Fargate advertising "Santa's Grotto" -- which is surprising to me because Brits usually refer to Santa as "Father Christmas". Nando's, the Caribbean chicken restaurant chain (the UK's more interesting answer to America's El Pollo Loco) is advertising its turkeyless Christmas, yuletide carols are being sung at back doors by tone-deaf young blokes hoping for a tip, and Pakistani taxi drivers are dressed up like Inuit taxi drivers.
Although I don't celebrate Christmas myself, I do have to admit it's all a bit Christmassy. I'm just sad I missed the lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice.