I woke up to a delicate dusting of frost on leaves and grass. It reminded me of the incandescent shimmer of a tropical sea after sunset, but without the imperative pleasure of sinew withering heat. I snuggled deeper under the covers. I closed my eyes and retreated to an undecided consciousness in which the suns rays, unhindered by the ozone layer, burned my skin to a cancer-inducing crisp.
That was yesterday. Today I woke up to gainsboro grey skies, denuded trees, and drizzle. But, mercifully, without yester-morning’s frigid nip. They tell me that this is unseasonably warm weather. When I put on my coat and hat and scarf and gloves my friends laugh at me and ask me what I’m going to do when the cold weather comes. The answer is simple. I’m going to suffer. I mean, they’re excited because the daytime temperature highs fall between forty and fifty degrees Fahrenheit. That means, in South African Centigrade-speak it’s between four and ten degrees. I mean, not to be too poetic about it, that’s helluva cold.
I still have a plane ticket. I’m not too proud to use it. But maybe to fly seventeen hours in search of a bit of a swelter is inordinate. Florida was suggested. Yes, I could do Florida when it gets too much to handle or California. Or perhaps, dare I suggest I actually tough it out in below sub-zero temperatures.
I’m not pretending to be a stranger to winter. England has winter almost all the time. England has cold, damp, drizzly, grey winter. It has cold, damp drizzly grey summer too. I survived Switzerland where the snow got so deep it buried the cars and where they cut corridors in the eight, ten, twelve feet of snow. I know winter. I know winter so well that I know to dread it. We don’t like one another, Jack Frost and I. We were never friends. I spent the early part of my life longing for summer days that were hot.
When it snowed in South Africa this last winter everyone but me was excited. Snow. Ugh! Beautiful though it is, I’ve had more than plenty. Imagine, there was a time when I thought I would never, ever see snow again. I thought I would stay in Africa, venturing out only when other places were enjoying the height of their summer, which corresponds to the height of South African winter which is perfect timing. For the past twenty years it has been so. It has been bliss. The fact that South African winters are so short has been a source of great relief after the chilly agonies of bygone days. When it’s too cold we simply don’t go out. We can do that because it’s so rarely so cold. Were we to try that in England we’d have been hibernating most of the year.
Perhaps it will all be fine for me. I mean there’s no guarantee that it will snow this year in America, is there? Last year they got more than a lifetime’s worth in a few weeks. They almost outdid Switzerland, Norway and Sweden combined in New York alone. Perhaps this year, they, and by default, I, will be spared. It could happen. After all, it’s unseasonably warm for this time of year.