Sunday, December 13, 2009

How 'Bout That Weather

A little light commentary:


Not wanting to sound typically British or anything but what about this weather we’ve been having? Practically anywhere on either side of the Pond has had weird weather recently. However, I never really appreciated the temperate climes of England until I left. Growing up on the north east coastline could be pretty nippy when you had to wait too long for a bus, but there’s nothing quite like “lake effect winds and snow” racing over Lake Michigan down from Canada to give you a true sense of “cold”..

On Thursday we got up to an actual temp of 3 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill taking it down to -20. That’s -16 Celsius feeling more like -28 because of the wind. When you get outside, the hair (and whatever else) inside your nostrils freezes. It really is the strangest sensation. Your eyes water because of the cold, and then the tears freeze halfway down your face. I remember years ago when the actual temp was below zero but the wind chill was- 40 (which, if you’ll remember is the same in both Fahrenheit and Celsius). My brother in England said “Toni, that can’t be right. That’s a walk- in freezer”. Yes, it is. That’s why the TV weather people tell you not to go out unless it’s absolutely necessary, and explain the initial signs of frostbite.

Fashion goes out the window in this kind of weather. Not only do regular (women’s) boots not keep your feet warm, they get ruined by the salt that’s poured on the roads every night and the nice leather soles usually turn into suicide weapons on the ice. Hats are a must, and I have yet to find a really flattering hat that also keeps your head warm. Don’t even talk to me about hat hair, which is permanent in this season. We usually also wear scarves that can be wrapped across the face, ski masks or gaiters that do the same. Trendy jackets and coats are traded in for ankle length parkas; if you don’t have one of those, layering lighter jackets also works. In either case you are rendered incapable of putting your arms down by your sides and if you fall over, you cannot get up unassisted.

Dressing children for school is a race against time, especially if you have more than about two. By the time you’ve got the last one suited up, the first has either fainted from the heat or needs to go pee. I would suggest standing them all outside once they have the ski gear on but I think that’s classed as physical abuse below a certain temperature. Oh yes, and they rarely get to play outside once the weather gets below freezing, so they come home bouncing off the walls.

How you doin’?


Very often, when I meet people for the first time and they realize I’m not from around here, they ask, “Don’t you just hate the weather?” Then I tell them about weather where I come from, and they gain a new appreciation for the mild, temperate (albeit, wet) climate we enjoy here.

I read Toni’s piece with a pang of nostalgia and a good deal of glee that I don’t have to put up with that any more. In Chicago, of course, the wind is the killer, but in my location, just south of the Adirondack Mountains, the real temperature got down to -22. Fahrenheit. (That’s -30 C.) At that temperature, there is no wind. There is also no bird song, or rustling of chipmunks in the wood. When the world is that cold, it is as silent as a deep sleep. The only sound is the soft crunch of snow underfoot, and your own whimpering as the snot freezes in your nose and your eyeballs glaze over with ice.

But it has its own beauty, a stark, still, silent beauty that I have to admit, I do miss.

I do not, however, miss digging my car out from under three feet of snow and driving to work. None of this two-centimetres-and-we-get-the-day-off crap. I also don’t miss shovelling my roof. Yes, you heard that right, “Shovelling. My. ROOF!

And that’s just winter.

Try 104 degrees in the shade (40 C) with high humidity. In temps like that the blacktop steams and sticks to your sneakers as you amble very slowly across it. (Cold brings movement to a standstill; heat only slows it down.)

No, the British climate may throw some chilly mornings, wet afternoons, foggy evenings and blustery nights at me, but it can never hope to touch the extremes I grew up with. In the weather department, moving to England was definitely a trade up.

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  1. Ah yes! Mike, I totally agree. London weather is amazing compared to the horrors of a Canadian/ northern US winter. I love that I can go for a run in the winter in London and the grass is still green -- and my lungs don't feel like they're being stabbed by shards of glass with every breath I take.

    When I lived in Ottawa and Montreal, I actually stopped wearing eye make-up in the winter because the condensation from my scarf-covered mouth would rise up and freeze my eyelashes together. Not good.

    Give me British weather any day!

  2. People here in England are always saying to me "What do you think of this weather" and every time I say I love it. I grew up in Virginia, so I didn't have the extreme cold that Mike had and Toni has. But we did get down to 0F occasionally, and definitely up to 100+. And living in houses with no air conditioning most of my life, I dreaded summer. Sitting on your couch and sweating... never mind mowing the lawn!

    When I get cold here, (or hot this past summer) I purposely reminded myself what the current temperature was in Virginia, and it put it back into perspective for me. I do love British weather!

  3. It's only just starting to get cold here on Long Island - it was minus 5 the other day - but everyone tells me that is what it is like for the whole of January, and much colder too. Which is definitely too cold for me. But I definitely don't miss the greyness of the British weather -yet. There seem to be more sunny days here, even when it's freezing cold.

  4. I'm in Dallas and have been for two years, but oh... Chicago winters. I was glad to attend a college with tunnels during the winter - you could stay inside nearly the entire time. For my last two years in the city I didn't have that luxury anymore AND had to take public transport around the city. MISERABLE. I don't like Texas but I am glad for a break from the miserable winters!

  5. Funny Marsha should mention streaming eyes. At the moment, I'm developing a lovely red irritation rash under one eye because of the excessive tearing. It would appear I'm allergic to my own tears. Great! Just in time for the festive season.

  6. My own favorite weather story is when I went clubbing in Montreal in January. Of course inside we were sweating (it's hot dancing, especially when you do it in long underwear) and when we left it was -36C. For a second it felt wonderful, and then all the sweat froze to my face.

  7. Mike, I love England but when you are from the north the weather is a lot more dismal than down matter what season. If I moved home, I would miss having summers.

  8. Vinogirl: You are right, there is that to consider. My view is always from a US Northerner perspective. I recently met an American over here from sunny So CA where it's always blue skies and 80 degrees F. I have to wonder what she's making of the weather right now -- 18F (-11C) and snow! This is definately NOT a trade up ;)

  9. Right, so that's Chicago off my list if we ever move to the States! What are DC and Boston like? I think I may need further south! It's currently about -5C here in the midlands (of Britain) and that's far too cold as far as I'm concerned. Ideally I'd want somewhere that stays between 15 and 30 degrees C - any suggestions? I don't mind the odd week or 2 of snow for a change, but then summer should return, thank you!

  10. Hard to say, Mrs Baum. Definately someplace down south, but not too far! It gets beastly hot there in the summer.

  11. Boston well, it's a bit warmer than Chicago in winter, but it also snows more. And a bit warmer does not mean it's as warm as you're used to in the winter.

  12. I did read a book by an Italian diplomat once that said DC was considered a hardship assignment because of the weather. But he was talking about summer, since it's far enough south that DC has a pretty mild winter. Like London, DC is a city where everyone flips their shit if it snows. See Obama talking smack about his kids getting a snow day last year, something that hasn't happened in Chicago since 1999 (when there was 22 inches of snow).

  13. To be honest (and this isn't a criticism really) there aren't many places in the US that have perfect weather. Most are either really really hot in the summer, or really really cold in the winter. It's a question of what you can put up with. (And CHicago has both.)
    People in southern California will say that's a pretty decent climate. I used to reply "Yeah but you're living on a fault line" until we had a 5.4 earthquake right here in Chicago last year and I discovered this fault line has just as much potential.

  14. Yeah, fault lines, dodgy weather, constant adverts on your telly... I can see why you live there!

    I can see why lots of Brits emigrate to Spain, from the weather point of view.

    My search for the perfect country (nice weather, less miserable than Britain, beautiful countryside, English spoken) continues then!

    Meanwhile, husband is still sold on DC/Boston. We'll see...

  15. California. That is all I have to say. We had unseasonably cold weather in the Bay Area last week, down to 37F in San Francisco. It made me rather homesick for the UK. We are so spoilt here, we can even drive three hours to the snow. I would struggle to go back to the UK weather and I'm glad I didn't get the job I applied for in the US North East last year, your post makes me wonder what on earth I was thinking!


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