NOW IS THE WINTER OF THE MALCONTENT

Think of winter.  Think of a few adjectives to describe winter.

What springs to mind?

Mild?

Harsh?

White?

No?  How about Bloody Useless?  That’s right, I would like to vote for this winter as being the Most Bloody Useless Winter on record, or at least in living memory.  Now, having grown up on the South coast of England, I know a thing or two about the usefulness of winter weather, i.e. apart from having the beach to yourself and improved revenue for wetsuit vendors, not very much at all quite frankly.

However, a Central European Winter is a different kettle of fish altogether.  None of your Nancy-Boy Gulf-Stream here, oh no.  This is winter how the gods intended it.  This is the sort of winter that wraps itself around you and squeezes… the stuff of pagan legend… the reason the Christians took so long to get their feet under the table here was that no-one would believe that a Jewish chippy in a bed-sheet could possibly be better at keeping the wolf from the door than a huge bloke wearing a dead bear, carrying a duck in one hand and a dirty big hammer in the other.

Well, normally it is.  This winter though, has been a source of embarrassment from the word go.  For a start, it turned up late and when it finally did get here it just kind of hung around sulking and making life unpleasant for people.

My main complaint is the snow-rationing.  The first winter I was here there was over a metre of the stuff in the valley and rather more up in the mountains.  However, I had neither the time nor the money to go skiing and I was not happy about it.  The following year I had the money but no time and this year, according to the Law of Sod, I had plenty of time, more money than I’ve had for a long time and NO BLEEDING SNOW!!!

Not only was there no snow, there was no warmth either.  A high-pressure system was perched happily over Siberia, rotating slyly clockwise and bringing cold Arctic air down over cold Russian steppes, snowing like there was no tomorrow as it went until it arrived here, colder than Eskimo-poo on an ice-berg, bone-dry and cloudless.  At night it got even colder as the clouds made themselves thoroughly conspicuous by their absence.

Rivers froze, ponds froze, car batteries froze and even cheap antifreeze froze.  The only way to get an engine going in the morning was to add highly volatile chemicals to the fuel and take the battery indoors each night. 

Even then there was no snow.  I had borrowed some cross-country skis in anticipation of getting some exercise and not only was there no snow, the plastic in the skis was in danger of breaking.  The hot air blowers on all the buses and trams were switched off for some perverse reason and even taking public transport became a painful experience.  I heard a rumour that visiting Geordie Lasses were wearing knee-length skirts and long-sleeve blouses.

Just as it got to the point where we were discussing invading Greece, the weather broke.  In just a few hours the temperatures had soared to -10C, the clouds rolled in and the sky dumped a paltry twenty centimetres of snow on us, followed over the next few days by a sprinkling more.  I raced eagerly outside with my skis (more of this later!) and enjoyed a couple of weekend trips before the temperatures soared again, up to 1C at times, the snow turned to rain, the permafrost turned to swamp and the public transport drivers suddenly found the ‘on’ switch for their heaters.

So there you go.  That’s why I’d like to vote for this winter as the Most Bloody Useless Winter in Living Memory.  Temperatures have been steadily rising over the past few days, up to around 12C at times.  Willows have been sprouting catkins, the filthy slush at the side of the road has melted, rivers are flowing again and everyone has started to look forward to spring.  Which is probably why the temperatures dropped like a stone this afternoon and it started snowing again.  Not the useful kind of snow that you can ski on, of course.  This is just a frozen drizzle designed to sap the will to live.

Anyone fancy a pint?

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