50 Shades of White; or: What I learnt on my first London snow day!

I’m not a total stranger to snow. I did mostly grow up in a place my father (who’d never been there) referred to as ‘the arse end of the arse end of the world’. I think he was implying that it was cold. And that he’s an arsehole.

Aaaanyways, it does occasionally snow in lil ol’ Dunners, but mostly up on the high hills, so that only those damned lucky hill people get a bloody day off. I only remember one time that it actually came down to sea-level and up to the ankles, in my very backyard, and halted everything. Ahh, that infamous day in 2004, my first year at uni, when we hauled our frozen arses up to Maori hill for a bit of carboard-box sledding, and some other activities NSFB (not safe for blog).

I was secretly hoping for a white Christmas, to see what all the Northern-Hemisphere-centric fuss was about, but I can’t blame the wish gods for being a little off. If we’ve learnt anything from Aladdin, it’s that you have to be reaaaaaally specific about your wishes. Depending on which calendar you use, it could be Christmas tomorrow, so the snow is just in time!

So here are some things I learnt today, on my first proper, full-blown, -1C is the high, London snow day:

I should probably plan ahead
Walking home last night (from an interview, cross fingers please!), I knew that a) it was supposed to snow tomorrow, b) I would not be leaving the house most of the day as I would be sick, cold, and unemployed, and c) I had no food in the house. Despite walking past multiple supermarkets, I did not stock up for the snowpocalypse. I need an adult!

Caffeine withdrawal > laziness
I lay in bed wondering if I could make it until the next time I actually had to go out. I thought perhaps laying in bed didn’t require too much energy and therefore I could conserve it if I just lay reeeally still and only watched shows that didn’t require any brainpower (cue catch up on the Kardashians. Spoiler alert: they’re still idiots). However, there came a point, a terrifying singularity where want headed dangerously toward eclipsing need, when I realised I was out of instant coffee and I’d already eaten that emergency Snickers.

Leggings under jeans isn’t as bad as I expected
I’ve always avoided such evil ‘layers’. I’m always up for a singlet-merino-coat combo, but long-sleeves under long-sleeves make me come over all awkward eskimo. My Mother will attest to my lifelong horror of waddling about all Maggie-in-a-star-suit styles, although my Other-Mother will be proud that I now think of her every time I tuck my singlet in so I don’t get cold kidneys. But leggings under jeans! Surely the ultimate uncomfortable movement-inhibiting enslavement to the cold?! Well, with the desperation that comes of being too poor to have warm things, I did it. I bloody did it. And it was marvellous. And I’d do it again! I would!

Snow makes some things purrty
I am not one of those things. I have bed-head on any (read: every) given day, and adding snow-turned ice to the mixture only makes me look more like a drowned rat, except of course, one drowned Titanic-styles in the freezing Atlantic Ocean. However, the local cemetery that I’d not got around to going into yet was exceptionally enticing today, with headless angels shadowed in white and the tracks of the living identifying the most-revered dead. Stopping at a somewhat impressive tomb which was very old but oddly still clothed in only recently-dead flowers, a man stopped and asked me if I knew the story of this grave. He pointed to his West Ham United beanie and told me this was the grave of the family whose Thames Ironworks (full of HAMmersmiths) founded the first West Ham side. He also gave me some history on the cemetery itself, both in origin and of its current local characters, and pointed out a passing, overgrown, very bushy-tailed and white-coated fox. I felt like I was walking through Dickens’ London, especially when I dallied through the more run-down sections of the graveyard and a terrifyingly gigantic crow cawed along after me.

Londoners don’t share jokes with strangers
If the elongated footprints through the snow were anything to go by, I knew I wasn’t the only gammy person casually sliding about the streets of East London. And by ‘casually’, I mean the heart-lurching skids that made me fear I would die, or worse, break my bottle of wine. Yes, I went out for coffee, yes, I came back with wine, deal with it. My reaction to each of these heart pumpers was, of course, to swear (‘Fuck!’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ seemed to win the day), laugh aloud at my uncouth response, and smile knowingly at the nearest passer-by. Ohh haha how we share such camaraderie on this abysmal day, and I laugh at myself and my near-miss, and you smile at me, thinking ‘there but for the grace of gawd go I’ in this slippery, strut-defying mess of white. But no. Every time I slicked across the puffy white snow turned slushy tailbone-threatening mess I was near another cold person, and every time the near-miss occurred and I cursed and laughed aloud at myself, I was greeted with such disdain. Middle-aged women glared as if I’d caused them embarrassment by acknowledging the white magic falling around us. Men darted quick looks to assess whether I expect their help in getting along the endangering footpaths. Dogs wagged their tongues at me in secret understanding, as long as their owners couldn’t see the glee in their bewildered eyes.

Isn’t this sitch hilarious? Am I the only one who laughs at crazy thundering downpours or hailstone-symphonies, or my world clothed in deathly white? We talk so much about the weather, can’t it actually sometimes be interesting?

My facebook feed right now is absolutely monopolised by the UK-OMG-it’s-Snowing-how-long-til-the-Tube-stops-working and Australia-OMG-it’s-46-degrees-every-day-how-do-I-anything? NZ of course swings in the middle. One day my mother’s all ‘shit bro there’s sun in Dunedin’ (mild paraphrasing there) and the next day a Wellingtonian’s reporting yet another old lady blown off a sidewalk.

I guess the most important thing I’ve learnt is that I’ve still got the Dunedin student spirit of I’m going out no matter what and fuck it I will wear a dress if I want to!

That’s right, I’m going out tonight. I’m determined not to fall over from drink or snow, but if someone wants to snuggle for warmth, that’s okay by me.


12 thoughts on “50 Shades of White; or: What I learnt on my first London snow day!

  1. Pingback: Snowpocalypse? Nopocalypse. | Fluffrick

    1. shapelle Post author

      At least no one can see if you’ve got leggings on under jeans! Although I was worried I’d get a few odd looks for my double-scarf action yesterday…

    2. Le Clown

      I’ve been told that Victoria, BC gets almost paralyzed when they get an inch of snow. Is there any truth to this?
      Le Polar Bear Clown

  2. jo mckenzie

    Love it! Love the cemetery description, the Dickensian feel of it and the man who knew its history happening to come along at just that time. The thing that stuns me is the “notfriendliness” of Londoners! Blows me away really, because it feels instinctive in me to respond and smile and my heart usually wants to. So I might end up feeling constantly rebuffed when I’m there. Will cope though. Realise how much I take for granted though, about good old Aotearoa. Glad you did the leggings under jeans and would do so again. I remember my first experience of long johns and jeans and it wasn’t as bad as you’d think. It felt like survival at the time. Glad you have the Dunedin experience to draw from, might have been a bit of a shock going from Tamaki-Makaurau to London, but Otepoti gives you some snow exposure. Love your work bub.

    1. shapelle Post author

      The ‘notfriendliness’ of Londoners is definitely a thing (and one I’ve complained about a lot!) but I also want to try to notice more the ‘nice old history man’ types and not get so bogged down by big city negativity. There’s this art series on the Underground where people write in about little acts of kindness from strangers on the Tube and it always gives me that kitten-story-at-the-end-of-the-news tear in the eye! I think the problem is that crowd mentality is just so exaggerated in such a large population, but it doesn’t mean that individual people can’t be awesome. Don’t worry Ma, I promise I won’t let them eat you alive 🙂

      1. jo mckenzie

        Aw, thanks bub. I love that there are things like that art series. People do want to connect, but city life with such a huge population means survival is tuning out. 🙂

  3. stephrogers

    Oh the layers! I’m totally on your side with that one. Leggings under jeans tells me it was desperate cold. I’m in the Australian 46 degrees camp here. Imagining all that snow while sitting in the doorway of the open fridge is like magic!

    1. shapelle Post author

      Urgh that sounds horrid too. Have to say, I had an epic drunken snowfight today and there’s so much snow in my backyard the treebranches are breaking, so I’m not really upset about it at the mo – very idyllic! Perhaps if we could just swap a few degrees??

    1. shapelle Post author

      Luckily it was snowing that day, coz if not you might have seen that I was unshowered (this was several weeks into unemployment) and wearing pyjamas underneath my jeans/coat/scarf/hat/gloves/boots combo. In fact, I’m wearing two scarves in this pic – one to keep the cold off the chesticles, the other to breathe through!


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