Yesterday, I failed to go to work.
As is usual, lately, I stood at the top of our stairs, looking out our hallway window onto the street. I check for snow, and the past few days have not failed me. Yesterday morning, however, I saw shiny black streets and a young woman picking her way carefully along the pavement. “Ah, icy again,” I thought. On Monday, it was icy but we made it safely to work and the ride was quite enjoyable, with everyone – drivers, other cyclists and walkers – being very friendly and community-minded. It’s so nice cycling along and having a stranger call out at you, “It’s icy ahead! Take care!” I responded with, “It’s icy behind! You take care, too!”
After breakfast, I donned all my layers and made my way outside. Our driveway was very icy and I minced my way towards the gate. There is a little slope from our driveway to the road and this was treacherous on Monday morning and therefore even more slippery yesterday morning. As I finished my careful manouvering of self and bike out the gate, I heard my front door open and my partner say, “Oanh, I don’t think you should go to work today.” I, too, had been wondering if I could actually get safely to work and had been considering returning to change my heeled boots for hiking boots and walking in, rather than biking. A few seconds of indecision later, I turned back, again juggling bike and self along our icy driveway and back into the house.
I checked the internet – Met Office, Highways Agency, BBC Weather News – to ascertain that it was, indeed, very icy out there and that there had been two very big, multiple car accidents (thankfully no one seriously hurt) at two major intersections near my house. A few phone calls later and I settled in to work from home.
It was eerily silent around our neighbourhood. Normally, we hear the low hum of cars, but the only sounds were emergency vehicles’ sirens in the distance. The first car to pass our house that morning was a fire truck, at 11am. Then there were no others until about 3pm, by which time rain had warmed the ice sufficiently for it to melt away, making the roads safe again.
I continued to peer out our hallway window every now and then, spying on the world. I watched as one of my neighbours inched her way painstakingly along the pavement, ungloved hands steadying herself on ice-covered fences. Another neighbour came out of his front door to have a word with her. He stepped onto his driveway and then slid, remarkably quickly, into the middle of the road towards her. Amazingly, he remained upright the entire time (and I was glad for him as he looked to be in his 60s and I would not have liked for him to have fallen onto hard, cold ice). After a quick chat, he turned back to his house. He shuffled along the road and stepped onto the pavement, carefully but confidently. Then he stepped onto his driveway and slid back onto the road. He then stepped sideways onto a little patch of lawn, walked along it to his door and stepped onto his driveway again. Before he could get a handle on his door, however, he had slid, once more, all the way back onto the road. I watched him try to get back into his house for half a minute, before the tension of it was too much and I turned away. Later, when I looked, there was no one outside, so I trust he made it back; but I bet he regretted that quick chat he had with the neighbour!
That evening, my partner and I cycled through a hailstorm, with lightning and thunder accompanying us, to a pub to celebrate with a friend who had just handed in his PhD thesis. When lightning flashed in the sky, I started counting, “One one thousand, two one thousand …” to discover that there were about 10 seconds between a flash and the low, ominous rumbling of thunder. I haven’t been inside a storm like that since Brisbane. About 100 metres from our destination, it began to hail; hard little balls of ice bounced off my helmet, pinged upon my bell and whipped my poor, frozen cheeks. Other than my face, however, the rest of me was perfectly warm and fine. We got inside the well-heated pub, steam drawing away from us. For a few long minutes, I could see nothing as my glasses had entirely fogged up and I had not yet peeled off enough layers to find a dry bit of material upon which to wipe my glasses.
I hate this part of going into dry inside from wet outside. I need a few minutes, alone, to de-layer and wipe my glasses and dry my face off, but usually there is hustle and bustle and greetings to be performed all while I drip, drip, drip and when I can’t see anyone anyway. “Hi!” I say, high-pitched and a little hysterical, directed into a corner where I think people are, though I’m not positive if they are or, indeed, who. Still, the Christmas lights were very pretty with my glasses off – lots of natural bokeh for me – and I settled in eventually, wrapping my fingers gratefully around a cup of tea while everyone else (now recognised) nestled pints of something-or-other.
We have no plans for travelling over the Christmas/New Year period and I am very glad. It is wetter and gloomier this year, though the chance of a white Christmas is higher. I think it is better, if the weather is going to keep kicking my butt likethis, that I stay inside and make only small journeys from my warm house to someone else’s warm house.
I’ve had 3 cold Christmases so far and they have each been different from the other. On the other side of the world, my family are gathering at an apartment beside the beach. They will probably be eating prawns (nice, proper big ones), goi cuon, grilled fish and lots of watermelon while I sleep. Then, while they sleep, I will be eating roast chicken, roast potatoes, parsnips and carrots, stir-fried brussels sprouts and lots & lots of pudding.
If you’re somewhere cold, stay warm!
If you’re somewhere hot, keep cool!
Happy Merry Whatever-You-Celebrate Greetings and if you don’t celebrate anything, I hope you have a nice couple of days anyway.