As I walked down the road towards the station this morning, the first day back at work after Easter, the sky was blue and the early morning sun blinded me as it peeped between the houses at the end of the road ahead of me. Then I turned the collar up on my winter coat and snuggled further into it, bracing myself against the cold as my breath fogged in front of my face and my toes started to feel numb.
Walking past the neat row of front gardens in my parents’ road, I noticed the pretty frost patterns on the bare twigs of their neighbours’ neatly pruned shrubs and hedges and on the icy pavement as it stretched ahead of me and I thought how familiar this scenario was to the last time I had left Little Chap with Grannie. That had been during the Christmas holidays, on my first day back at work in the New Year, when the UK was expecting its coldest winter for 100 years with an extended cold snap bringing snow and ice. That was when we planned extra time to de-ice the car before we left home. Déjà vu.
But it is not December, or even January. Today is the 2nd of April. It is my birthday next month; by which time all the trees should be in leaf and the sun should warm our backs, the need for coats no more. Early May is a time for sitting in the garden with a book or a magazine, torn between reading its pages and just resting one’s eyes on the glorious, colourful spectacle that is late spring. Each winter I wait impatiently for “my” time of year. Summer is too hot winter too cold. I am a spring baby.
But with each day of near freezing temperatures, it gets harder to believe that spring will ever come, because here in the northwestern suburbs of London, there still isn’t a single tree with its buds breaking into leaf. The few trees and shrubs that dared to produce blossoms on that one day we had spring warmth a few weeks back, look rather as if they wish they had thought twice about it. The ground is too hard and too cold to dig in our onion sets or the traditional Good Friday potatoes. Mayfair Dad pottered in the garden this weekend like a lost soul, trying to clear and prepare the garden for warmer days, unable to enjoy the warmth of the sun on his back as previous years.
My friend posted Happy Easter wishes on Facebook with a picture of her daughters and the magnificent snow bunny they had made in their back garden. This was nothing extraordinary as she lives in Poland, on Europe’s northern, Baltic coast but just the day before, another friend posted a similar snap of her girls with a giant snowman – twice their height (they’re 4!) But she was on holiday with family in the northeast of England!
It is beginning to feel like Ground Hog Day! Has time itself frozen? Perhaps this is Narnia, where it will be winter forever unless we defeat the evil Snow Queen. According to the news, spring (i.e. March) has had average temperatures in Central England that were colder than the same average temperatures for either December, January or February (i.e. winter). It is the first time records have shown this in the last century.
I certainly cannot ever remember it being this cold, so consistently, so bitingly, as late in spring as April. Every time we venture outside with Little Chap we’re beaten back minutes later as the chill and the biting wind turn him blue with cold despite the over protective layers, the snow suit, the beanie hat and the mittens.
The Easter holidays are late this year. It should be a time for shedding our winter layers, warming ourselves in the tentative warmth of the new season, acclimatising ourselves for the warm summer days ahead. Instead, as the brave few venture back into local playgrounds, they feel the pinch of frostbite as they grip the chains of the swing or the rails at the top of the slide. Climbing on the frozen metal rungs of the giant spider is out of the question as woolly mittens fail to grip and running around only appeals for a few minutes until tears stream from eyes stung by sharp, cold wind.
Family Mayfair did manage to get outside for an Easter Egg Hunt this year. Wrapped in layers, I quickly hid the cardboard eggs in the most obvious places so that Little Chap would find them in no time at all. We helped, obviously, so we could all retreat back indoors for more warmth and more chocolate – hot as well as egg shaped!
Since we put the clocks forward last weekend, it seems even colder, as we now have no reason to close the curtains against the freezing temperatures when the light fades in late afternoon, instead having to wait until early evening for the daylight to dim enough to warrant it. I am normally the first to jump up and down and do a hula dance as we herald British Summer Time and the longer, lighter evenings but even my usually unlimited enthusiasm for this positive time of year is dampened by the enduring bitter cold. Seriously, did someone move Mayfair Towers to Siberia when I wasn’t looking? Britain was colder than Lapland this weekend FFS!
I can only be thankful we live as far south as we do and that the snow we have had here has not settled or given us problems with mobility, power or heating like thousands in Northern Ireland and the north of England and Scotland.
I just want to say it feels odd. Like the oak trees not producing acorns last year, it makes me wonder, what does Mother Nature have in store for us all next?