11/02/2010

Snow - Paris

The song says « I love Paris in the winter, when it drizzles » not «when it snows », and there's a reason for it – apart from the obvious oh, crap, it doesn't rhyme : because you cannot walk anymore. No one has snow boots, except maybe for the odd Uggs pair trendy girls bought two years ago, but only nice looking and uncomfortable ones. It usually snows once a year, though, so that parisiens and parisiennes can shrug and say « bah, c'est la vie ». Now, attention, ladies and gentlemen, Parisiens and Parisiennes never ever say this, or they're 80 years old. And they don't shrug that much either, I'm still wondering why every author/expat in Paris says that. Anyway, once a year, it snows for about five minutes and it gives us a reason to moan : now that, we do a lot. It gets muddy the minute it falls on the ground, and it usually turns to slippery ice within the next day. Children are systematically disappointed and blame their parents – I told my 6 year-old it was Nicolas Sarkozy 's fault, he looked dubious, but I think that'll do for a year – and you can actually hear people praying not to fall on the m├ętro stairs.
This year, we saw the usual 5 minutes snow fall, ran like mad people outside, thinking how lucky it was that this was a Sunday, and then we stayed out to play for a good half hour, under the snow. Children got to do real snow ball fights and actual snowmen, Paris looked more beautiful than ever, its rooftops covered in white, shining under the sun. And then it kept on snowing. It was mid-december, we were hoping it would snow again for Christmas, but little did we know it was going to snow until and way past Christmas. I, who fall way too often for a girl my age, heroically managed not to fall once on the streets, but I cannot help thinking of all those very well dressed people falling Bambi-like everywhere. Old parisiens and parisiennes say this is the way it was in their youth and you cannot walk in the streets for ten seconds without hearing someone say such things like « Oh, it was fun at first, but now it's getting old » or « I just paid 2,000 euros to go skiing, this is ridiculous ». Now that there's a big storm in the States, you may think we'll stop complaining, but of course we won't : we're parisiens and parisiennes, that's what we do.

10/02/2010

Snow - Ankara

Winters in central Anatolian are beautiful. The landscape which can seem a bit barren in the summer are suddenly covered in snow. White snow. The kind that stays on, and that hardens so after a while you can walk on it and not sink and make your trousers all wet. The trees also get their covering, and it crystalises, so it looks all shiny, brittle and jewel like. Of course the children love it. It means they can sledge on weekends and after school. We take them on a hill a few hundred yards from our home. If the snow is icy enough, we'll even put one of the them in the sledge and pull them to the hill. They make snow men, with sticks and stones and carrots, and they build igloos large enough that they can crawl in them.

We, the adults, tend to get bored with it before the kids. For one thing it's cold and wet. It means we have to wear big boots and tuck our trousers in our socks to go to work. And then we have to remain like that all day in our overheated offices. We have to mind our step because it's slippery. The stairs tend not to hold very well under cold weather (you'd think they'd be designed with the local climate in mind, but no), so there's often broken steps to contend with as well as ice. And there's all that sledging we have to do.

The snow can last a long time. It usually starts to fall just before Christmas and sometimes doesn't clear till March. On heavy snow days the government closes the schools so kids from villages don't miss out on the national curriculum. Our kids tend not to get these as their school doesn't depend on the Turkish state, which is just as well as we rarely get time off for snow and would have to arrange emergency child care.

Sometimes the buses won't run. I once took some books back to the library in the sledge, with my daughter sitting there holding them. I've known people to take their sledge to the supermarket too.

But all this is academic as this year, it didn't happen, nor is it likely too. It did not snow at Christmas, we had a bit of sleet in January, and one day of snow. Two days ago we woke up to a white landscape. It was clear enough that we coud see the snow capped mountains in the distance. Our son sat up in bed and looked out the window with a beatific smile. It snowed on through the day so that our daughter had to come back from school early. The next day it rained. Today there's nothing left, except a few piles of grey slush on the pavements.

Needless to say we're all disappointed: after all, this what we moved to Ankara for (it's not, we didn't know a thing about the climate when we came, but the weather gods don't need to know that).

So there's a few weeks left now when snow would be acceptable – and it's only a short month too. I bet it snows in the spring.

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