As I write this I’ve got a bag full of presents, I’m sitting in the first-class train carriage (it was actually cheaper, I swear!) and I am very festively gallivanting up to the airport, looking forward with light heart to getting off the ground tomorrow on my way to visit my parents for Christmas.
Friday, things did not look quite so rosy. I was frantically trying to finish up the first draft of my last chapter (apart from the introduction and conclusion), because I was planning to go out that night with a friend who was having her viva (oral exam for PhD students to test us on our own theses) that day and I didn’t want any work hanging over my head during the weekend.
Suddenly, I got a call from my dad saying that I should keep an eye on my transportation plans because there was supposed to be a huge snowstorm in southern England over the weekend. I was already slightly concerned about getting home because the British Airways cabin crews had decided to hold a strike right over the Christmas period—they were planning to start the day after my flight, but I knew it would probably be manic at the airport with people desperate to get out early. Dad suggested I should try to leave for London early so I wouldn’t get stuck in Exeter, but I decided to ride it out and see if the storm actually would materialize. Plus, I didn’t want to miss the festivities of my friend’s congratulatory drinks!
I kept checking the weather all that day and the next day, and though there were some delays on Friday it looked like there wasn’t any need to panic. (And the celebrations? Many champagne cocktails were consumed…) I have yet to see any snow—London has some, but I’m currently speeding past verdant green fields only barely tipped with frost.
It has been really icy though, an experience I’ve not had these past several years. There wasn’t a lot of ice out there when I left the house this morning, but that made it all the worse for being unexpected. It was strange to think that such a slim sheen could cause such havoc—I nearly fell over myself a couple of times and I saw several others do the same. Growing up in New England I remember massive snowdrifts which were often taller than my head (when I was a kid, that is). Clearing snow always meant leaving a thin rind that always refreezes into slick patches of ice, but they somehow seemed less of an obstacle. I couldn’t figure out why this ice seemed so much more treacherous until I realized that nobody had put any salt or sand down anywhere. Some of the ice melted around midday, but any shady patches were still slick even as I got on my train in the middle of the afternoon. I took a walk through the park on my way back to the house to pick up my suitcases and I could have skated on the paths.
Though it wasn’t quite the same as snow, having the frisson of danger that comes with fearing that you will slide your way to an untimely death—or at least a nasty knock on the head—spurred my festive impulses. There’s something special about a Christmas in the cold, though naturally Bethlehem in December isn’t really all that chilly. In any case, I wish all my dear readers and especially the Skirt!istas out there a very happy holiday season and all the joys of the new year.
Postscript: Writing this bit at the airport. As we sped into the gloaming dustings of snow began to appear on the ground. Frostbitten sunset; beautiful reds and purples. As we got closer to the airport the snow on the ground thickened. I had an urge to jump out of the train and make snowballs on the platforms every time we stopped at a station. Memories of snow-ridden evenings from my childhood loomed before me (forgive the Edwardian language; I’m watching Sherlock Holmes on the hotel telly, and a Dickensian Spirit of Christmas Past appears to be visiting as well). Mainly I remember a sprightly snowball fight in Harvard Yard, sinking knee-deep into the stuff around an igloo some enterprising students had built. There won’t be any igloos for me this Christmas, but it is pleasant to recall, nonetheless. (Post-postscript: I’m home in sunny Florida now; there may not be snow but I’ll probably see some festive dolphins swirling through the canal behind our house during the holiday. Maybe I can find some aquatic Santa hats for them…)