Without a map or a compass, one could be fooled into believing that it is summer on a tropical island, when it is winter. The only signs of winter are the bare flame trees, which have lost their red leaves. All other vegetation flourishes throughout the year.
Escaping the European winter to the beaches of Thailand, Bali, the Caribbean, or the southern hemisphere, where it is summer, is not unusual. Hotels, airlines, and travel agents thrive on the urge to find sun during the winter months.
What sounds strange—and surely is for most—is to flee European summer for the winter in the southern part of the globe. The only other people I know that do something seemingly contrary and foolish are skiers seeking snow for training in the Andes.
But, contrary can be good. Mauritiun winter offers sunshine, warmth, lush vegetation—except the flame trees—and warm water: everything one wants in a “summer” vacation.
I noticed weather reports predicting more cold and snow for most of the northern states of the United States. From what I recall of my earlier life in that country, this is rather normal for this time of year. Winter is cold and snow falls frequently. I remember snow covering the ground some years from November to March and many days off from school.
Unlike hockey players today, who are spoiled by artificial ice and indoor arenas, we hoped for cold to freeze the pond and feared snow, which had to be shoveled before we could play. I wonder if today’s youth is tough enough. I remember two Canadians arguing about players being coddled in indoor rinks. The conversation, in part, as follows:
First: "It’s not heated, so it’s just as cold as outside."
Second: "Maybe, but the don’t have to buck the wind."
My point is that winter is winter....except in Germany. We have had the warmest temperatures on record and no snow. Flowers are blooming and fruit trees are blossoming. No longer playing hockey, I prefer the milder winter. I do not miss shoveling snow. That said, I happy to sympathize with anyone needing sympathy.
The North Atlantic Oscillation, often mentioned by me, has been kind to central Germany this year. England has suffered repeated buffeting and flooding, thanks to low pressure systems spiraling off the North Atlantic.. In the past, these storms usually came our way, but this year have veered off to the north.
Calendars inform me that it is February: deep in winter. The problem is that a glance out the window fools me. I see flowers begin to sprout in the garden. I planted these bulbs only a few weeks ago and did not expect to see sign of them until Easter.
I hope that winter does not come raging back, because these poor things might catch a cold. Farmers are already moaning about potential loss of crops, because too many, not having a calendar--believe that spring has arrived. Of course, a cold snap would put an end to the weeds, which have also returned early...
Winter came and went last night. No ghoulies; no ghosties, but a freak thunderstorm did go bump in the night.
Just before midnight, rain changed to snow. Before turning in, I looked out the window and noticed bits of ground had become white. At one thirty, I awoke and decided to check the weather. Snow had accumulated and turned most surfaces white. I returned to bed, happy that I did not have any plans to leave the house the next day. Before sleeping, I tried to recall where I had seen my shovel: garage or cellar? I hoped that I would find it in the cellar, so I could start work from the moment I opened the front door. I do not hate shoveling snow.
Upon awaking, I discovered that rain had returned and melted all the snow. Anyone having gone to bed early missed the white interlude, not knowing that winter had stopped by. I had no fresh air and no exercise...
Those of you with greater power of observation than a blind person will have noticed that I changed the photo on the title page. (I’ll pause a moment, while you look...)
Winter has arrived, more or less. I recall cold weather starting around late October and running until April. In this part of Germany, the weather remains damp and cool (not unlike much of summer), despite the calendar suggesting that cold temperature should occur. Therefore, I felt that a winter-themed photo might be appropriate. Perhaps, this will cause someone to follow the finely crafted words below the photo, which suggest enjoying (after purchasing) one of my trash novels in front of a fire.
Speaking of novels, I recalled a few moments ago the first sentence of the first book I attempted: The heat of the sauna felt good after an afternoon of raking leaves. I raked leaves this afternoon, and I enjoyed a sauna. This sentence did not make the cut and did not appear in what ultimately became fLying’s easy. Still, I like the words and the memories.
Winter arrived last night. Sorta.
The first glimpse out the window this morning revealed a winter wonderland in white. Less perceptive folks might have concluded that snow had fallen. This was a perfect example of freezing fog. Once everything was covered with moisture, the temperature dropped quickly and froze the lot.
Last night I had seen the beginnings of the freeze on the drive home. I had seen this phenomenon on two previous occasions: in Moscow one January night and in Lillehammer during in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. Both nights were cloudless. In Moscow, I had the good fortune of being in a car; in Norway, I huddled with others under blankets and layers of clothing to watch the show. (An indoor opening is out of the question.) The air was so cold that the little moisture in the air froze, forming tiny crystals that glistening in the lights. This was how I first glimpsed the Kremlin...
...which has nothing to do with the weather at home. I expect that this is a short guest appearance, because the next front from the west is certain to bring milder temperature. After all, a white Christmas is something unusual in these parts.
The “bear” I mentioned yesterday turned out to be a polar bear. Everything is white, traffic--by land and by air--is snarled, shovels have be retrieved from storage, grumbling has increased, and heating costs have risen. Number One Son is stuck in Nice, unable to fly to Frankfurt Airport, an airport that rarely closes
I have never minded shoveling snow...and I have shoveled a bunch of it in my life. My school did not have a covered rink (we had an old-fashioned hockey pond), so we often were forced to shovel snow before we could practice. Richer schools had covered rinks with artificial ice: we prayed for cold, no snow, and overcast skies. Sunshine caused the lines, which were painted blue or red, to melt. Jokes about “tripping over the blue line” were no joke. Of course, we enjoyed an advantage in home games over the kids from the rich schools, because our team could practice on this tricky surface.
Shoveling snow ranks up there with leaf-raking as a good way to get fresh air and exercise, without having to discuss anything with anyone. With no reason to grumble, my mind can roam to wherever I choose, like a bumblebee buzzing from flower to flower.
Speaking of bees, I am reminded that I must buy bird food...
That lion I wrote about the other day has barged into town in the form of icy Siberian air with occasional snow flurries. Areas to the north have suffered heavy snow. Temperatures dropped from around 10C to minus numbers in a few hours. I was forced to put on another layer.
Each time cold hits my neighborhood, I am reminded that this is a lousy region to fight a war. Fortunately, none has taken place for a number of years, although almost endless strife characterized the area for previous millennia. The only worse places to be play soldier is to east of here. I cannot imagine the suffering of anyone having endured WWII in Russia. The lucky ones were those that dies. If you do not believe me, read Stalingrad, by Antony Beever. Each time I complain about the cold, I am reminded of that book...and that I am such a wimp. I recall one maneuver, when I was in the Army--supposedly defending the Free World from the Russian menace gliding into Europe through the Fulda Gap--which was called off because of cold weather.
Now, I must endure Russian air masses flowing down the Fulda Gap, but I enjoy central heating, warm clothing, and no enemy gunfire. Still, I am a wimp and happy to be able to enjoy this...
Here is a tough question: Consider the two photos below and think of where you would rather be at this moment.
One photo shows my current predicament; the other was taken where I was two weeks ago. One has a daily temperature of -5C; the other enjoys daily temperature of 33C. The makes a difference of almost 40 degrees. (Those of you not on the metric system can do the math.)
All things being equal, most would choose warmth and sunshine. But, all things are not equal and choice is not always available. One tends to become stuck where one is, with the occasional vacation escape.
Despite winters more harsh than in Thailand, I am happy to live in a temperate climate. Anyone having read Somerset Maugham or Rudyard Kipling will understand what I mean.
Recent snow was unusual for this time of year. Conditions have become worse, because now we suffer from unseasonably cold weather. Temperatures have been below or hovering at freezing (0 degrees Celsius) for days. At the moment, the mercury reads -8 (17 degrees Fahrenheit). As always, global warming and the North Atlantic Oscillation are to blame.
At times like this, I am pleased that earlier humans invented central heating. Any heat source would be good, but fires require chopping wood and removing ashes. And, the fire does not start itself, like any self-respecting oil furnace does.
I am also happy to live in a house equipped with said heating and that I can afford fuel for the contraption. With the rate oil prices having rising over the years, I hope that will continue. Otherwise, I will be bloody cold…or be forced to become a refugee in a land close to the Equator.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.