When you grow up in Australia, you don’t get to see very much of the stuff. In fact, our Christmas was on the other side of the planet. So while Europe and America were gearing up for a truck load of the white stuff to fall from the sky, keeping the ice off the car windows and picking the right ham, over in Oz we were working out how not to get burned to a crisp under the baking summer sun.
When I was 8 you would get a spraycan of frosting and were given the job of spraying fake snow on the windows of the house. Making it look just like it does in the movies. Half the time the stuff would melt off anyway, so it would look more like someone had spread marshmallows on your window frames.
The Santas in the street would be cooking in their polyester suits and wellington boots. In fact, every Santa I ever met smelled kind of off. Which as a kid, just kind of blows the whole Xmas vibe.
Like the hand me down sweater from your brother that never quite fitted right, you were always aware that this whole holiday was created for somewhere in the world that didn’t bear any resemblance to ours. There was always this sneaking suspicion that kids on the other side of the planet were having a lot more fun.
But you know, there was a tree and it was full of presents so when you’re 8 you can let the reservations slide as you play with your new piece of Star Wars stuff. From the first films, the first time round.
Then 30 years later, you come to live in Europe. And you find out that snow could be the vilest thing ever invented.
It’s absolutely beautiful, there is no doubt about it. Three days ago, Paul and I were sitting on the couch here in our little Dam pad and I stopped mid sentence (because surprise, surprise, I’m usually talking). Little flakes were falling from the sky. We are instantly children again.
We stand by the windows leaving nose dabs and breath frost on there, as we ogled the little white bits of falling daintiness. Wow, this is great. It covers the cars, the bikes, the streets, the canals. It’s just like it looked on all the cards I’d see as a kid.
Then you have to go outside in it. Then you nearly die.
Forget riding a bike. It’s so cold with that wind whipping off the canals. Add snow on top and it’s nigh on suicide. Snow melts, ices up and therefore looks like it’s the same color as the road. And every new meter is a new chance to fall off your bike and join the broken arm-y whose ranks swell every cold snap.
Walking in it’s not the safest either, but hey, it’s that or get fired and live on take out. But if you do get to the station alive, the snow has probably stopped the trains. Seriously, it stops the trains. They’re on rails. But if enough flakes gang up together…
And then by the end of the day, when a city of cars has run over it, a million boots have traversed it and a few horses as well, it’s anything but white. You name the shade of grey and you’ll find it on the street of Amsterdam by 4pm.
So I think that maybe we might have had not such a raw deal after all in Sydney over the yuletide. Prawns on the barbie, barefoot on the lawns and if you wanted a bit of white to fall from the sky, your mother’s finger was never far away with a dollop of zinc to cover your nose.