Saturday, 3 December 2011

Life in Britain: The Weather

I've been wanting to write something about the weather here almost since we arrived, because I knew we were going to have a very different experience of winter here than we've had at home for the last quarter century.

This was brought home to me last night, when Mansfield's MCR (graduate students) had their Christmas Party and Oxford had its annual Christmas Light Night celebrations.  Erm...  It doesn't really look or feel like Christmas to me.  At all, really.  The grass outside my window is still green, and freshly mown, though on two mornings this week, it was was covered in frost (for the first time since we've been here).  There are also still some leaves on some trees.  Some trees have many, many leaves.  And last night, at about 11:00 pm, as Tim and I walked our bikes past the Christmas Light Night carnival rides that were being taken apart and the abandoned food stands, we were commenting that it was quite pleasant outside.  This is very strange for early December.

Autuumn has felt so different this year.  The temperatures have ever so slowly declined from about the high teens (when we got here in mid-September, with a brief blip in early October when we had temperatres up around 25 and higher) to daily highs of 6ish.  And I know that, apart from cold snaps, that's about the coldest it will be all winter.

In Saskatchewan when it starts to cool off, one experiences a sense of impending doom.  Because once it gets cold and once you get a good layer of snow, the snow and cold just aren't going away anytime soon.  We always joke that the snow is always gone by my Dad's birthday - April 20th.  It's generally a good date to judge by.  Melting takes place in March.  But December, January, and February are generally just cold (and by cold, I mean, say, average daily highs around maybe -15, with quite regular dips below -30 and, at least once a year, -40.  And that isn't even bringing in the windchill...)  Winter is awful in Saskatchewan.  We're used to it, however, and have learned to survive.  Mostly this involves not going outside for extended periods of time.

And while I think being able to walk around at night without my head covered (though I have made the transition to my wool coat now) is weird, I suppose I have to admit that Saskatchwan is where the weird and wild weather is.  Somehow we've been gifted with some of the coldest winters in the world.  I'm really quite glad I get to skip a few by being over here.

On the other hand, as we have yet to see even the barest hint of snow, it doesn't really feel all the Christmassy, though the lights and the Christmas trees in Broad St. and the Bodleian courtyard help a bit.

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