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  • Writer's pictureHayley

The forgetful Canadian

I've been living in the UK and Ireland for the past 15 years, and in that time have had only a few brief flirtations with winter. There was that week in Edinburgh in 2010 when the country ground to a halt before Christmas, an icy day in Birmingham and a drive through Cambridge (Literally. It stopped when we hit Bristol).

Somehow over the past 15 years snow has become exciting again, as in I've reverted to full child at the thought of it. Whenever it snows outside the office my first thought is "snow angels!" Sometimes aloud (I'm told by my manager). I pine for the flakes to come down as I remember them doing in Canada, as I remember them doing during all the first snowfalls of the year in late November, sometimes before the trees have even finished losing their leaves. The first snowfall is always a heavy one, with huge pillowy flakes fluttering down from the skies in a gentle but relentless ballet of chilled precipitation. Flipping on the outdoor lights and looking through my parents bedroom window, which offered views over the farmer's fields below and the tall cedars and spruces around our house, was like spending an evening in a snow globe. I remember the first snow forts of winter, the first snowmen, first skate on the makeshift driveway ice rink, first near-death sledge down the ¼ kilometre slope of granite sedimentary rock, first well deserved hot chocolate. I remember it all, and every year I wish it on the UK even for a fleeting moment.

The problem, of course, is that there's nothing like fifteen years away from a Canadian winter to shovel all the other memories aside. The damp, wet socks all day at school as it was inevitably too much to ask 40 six (and ten. And sixteen) year-olds to balance on indoor shoes while taking off outdoor boots. Slush everywhere. The injured coccyx, every year, without fail, from some lump or bump on a makeshift slide made out of icy hill. The cold fingers and toes while skiing, walking, skating, standing, thinking, which cold greeted you every time you stepped outdoors for the entire winter. Four to five months of dry skin and hair styled by static electricity, thanks to the lack of water. Fifteen minutes waiting for the car to warm up sufficiently to be able to drive without your breath frosting up the windscreen. That time you had to use a hairdryer to melt the drops of water that dripped off your skis after an impromptu visit to the nearby hill, then froze solid into your car's ignition.

For fifteen years I managed to avoid thinking about all of this, remembering only the snow globe moments.

Then everything changed last weekend. Yes, for a moment it was brilliant - there was the getting snowed out of work, getting snowed out of Wales, the brilliant day sledging down the gentle slopes of St George Park with the dog in tow.

And then there were the short, shuffling steps required to not fall over. The snow drifts in the backyard. The woefully inadequate boots I'd wear everywhere, even though they weren't fully dry from the last time outside. The cold hands. The chill, the damp, the way the snow compacted in sidewalks so with every step came a different angle.

So I think winter's won. I skipped out on it for 15 years, but it found me again. And I'm no longer the cool, hardy Canadian I once was.

Next time, it's Netflix and hot chocolate for me.

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