The icy bottle of Russian Vodka was ousted unceremoniously from the bottom drawer of the freezer as well as random stuff like bagels, the obligatory frozen peas and the like. They were all sacrificed for the imaginatively-named Snowy the Snowball, date of birth January 29th, 2017. That was when this big lump of snow was locked in the freezer by the kids.
There had been no decent snow for the first 2 months of winter and the kids were disappointed. It wasn’t like we were basking in Mediterranean sunshine, winter was here with reassuring cold frosty weather. There was lots of black ice to make sure you didn’t go anywhere fast by foot, unless you went flyin’ of course and fell on your behind. Much to the kid’s mirth, I did some impressive ballet dance twirls and spins outside the school a few times as I tried to hold myself up on the ice. All fine but where was the snow. If there was a dusting, it disappeared again swiftly as temperatures fluctuated between minus and plus. There hadn’t been this little snow since 1960, I read somewhere. The locals seemed also to be stunned by this strange winter.
But on January 29th, there was enough snow in the garden to make decent snowballs to fire at each other. Having lost faith in the dependency of snowfall, the kids decided to make a BIG snowball and keep it safe in case this was the last snow we would have this winter. I protested initially but clearly not strongly enough as Snowy has been living in the freezer ever since. For my part, I just hoped that the neighbour’s cats hadn’t been marking their territory in the garden before said snowball was made.
The grown-ups in the house had also been looking forward to snow. You see, we had finally made the plunge to buy cross-country skis way back in September last year. They were mutual birthday presents to each other, kind of like a new phase, “We arrive in Norway, Part XXII – The Ski Stories”. In our fourth winter here, we were keen to finally partake in the local winter sport, it just had to be done.
But then the snow didn’t arrive. November and December passed in a haze of anything-but-whiteness. For a Norwegian winter, it never really got very cold either, usually fluctuating between -5 and +5 C. In our 4 Christmases here in Oslo, the last 2 have now been without snow. Climates are definitely changing. It’s unsettling. My son started ski school in January with no snow on the ground; ski school carried on regardless because this is Norway and it’s very seldom that weather not going to plan causes a change in a plan. The ski school at Skullerud could make kunstig snø or artificial snow so off they went regardless.
Plans for after-school activities came home in my son’s rucksack every week since Christmas with at least one afternoon planned for sledging because that’s what you do here in January. It’s a given. Well, a damp squib it was right through January this year. Having said that, I could see by his clothes when he came home that they still seemed to hurl themselves down hills regardless of the lacking snow, suggesting an impressive cavalier who needs it anyway kind of attitude. I told you these Norwegians were stoic.
And finally this month, some enduring snow arrived. The type of snow that you could count on being there day after day even if the winter sun melted it a bit during the day and then the freeze set in at night to harden it to rock.
I got caught badly underestimating the ice rock factor one morning as I went to take Nora to the dentist. We were taking no chances with that phone leaving us stranded if, ahem, the wrong bus came along again, so we were driving in the car this time. The car had layers of thick ice on it with some harmless snow on top. After a full half-hour defrosting, we arrived 10 minutes late for the appointment and were told we had missed our slot and to come back again in 5 weeks when the next appointment was free. The dental assistant gave us an impressive withering parting shot to not be late next time! Suitably humbled, we left as I explained to Nora once again that being late in Norway is never a good thing. Next time, I’m thinking we might camp overnight outside the surgery, with breakfast in a picnic basket, the works. I’d prefer not to risk that withering, albeit justified, telling-off again at any cost.
We did manage to have a family outing to try out those cross country skis one Sunday a few weeks back. Life being the learning curve that it is for us, we forgot to check if there was any event planned at Skullerud that day. As it turned out, there were competitions on which meant that there milling crowds and hundreds of Norwegian kids swooshing around the place expertly on their skis. Amazing stuff but not the day for the skiing novice here to falter and fall over and discretely pretend to admire the sky because she couldn’t get up. It was like we had walked into a the Winter Olympics for Little People, great to look at though. And our kids were well able to hold their own on skis even if not enjoying the crowds too much. We decided to come back another day.
Just this past weekend, we had the second major snowfall of winter. Beautiful relentless snow that lay almost 1 foot high on the ground on Sunday morning with a cloudless blue sky. Having learned that the snow can disappear as quickly as it arrives, we went out on skis on Sunday and had a great time. The 7 year old was my trainer and had the good sense to tell me that I was ‘pretty good for my first time’. I’ll take it however it comes.
But as I sit and type here, the rain is falling for the second day, the snow is disappearing once again in +4 C temperatures and there is slush on a bedrock of ice on the ground. There were many wet bewildered faces yesterday and today as parents dropped off kids at school and barnehage in truly miserably unusual winter weather conditions.
I am proud of Ireland voting last month to divest its sovereign wealth fund from fossil fuels*, i.e. coal, oil and gas. Norway did the same for coal back in 2015 as well as having a plan to ban the sale of fossil-fuel based cars from 2025**. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that climates are changing and it’s a good idea to do something. And that’s without ever reading about increased atmospheric carbon dioxide or seeing the poor bewildered polar bears standing on Arctic blocks of ice that were once endless glaciers. It’s just by looking out the window.
Spring starts tomorrow. Who knows what weather is ahead of us but it will most likely continue to keep us guessing for the next few months. Snowy the Snowball will stay for now and will probably quietly melt away, literally, with some help from me. That will be once Spring really comes and snow, or the longing for it, gives way to a joy that warmer drier weather has arrived and the big winter boots and suits can finally come off.