The Seasons I

Singapore is sitting on the equator – well almost. Which explains the Singapore climate. Seasons as we have them closer to the polar regions just don’t occur. Most people living here, of course, won’t know what they are missing.

I. Winter

Winter can wear you down, especially when daylight is turning dusk as early as 16.00 hours, day in, day out. It is depressing despite the picturesque (and dangerous!) icicles growing meter-long from the gutter along the steep roofs. As I went to primary, the post war facilities weren’t sufficient yet to take in all pupils in one go. Classes were crowded and, sometimes, we had to take shifts – morning and afternoon. And it was one of those dark afternoons when our teacher suddenly called us out from class to gather in the schoolyard: we muffled up against the temperatures and what we then saw – it was magical.

Everything around us, the building and the schoolyard, was lit up in green and waves of wafting greenish light seemed to be warping the sky above. A truly rare sight.

Bavaria has altitudes – ours was about 830 meters above sea level – but it should not be close enough to the arctic circle to observe an Aurora Borealis. (Bavaria is in the South(!) of Germany.) But then again, in those days it still seemed a good idea to test the baddest and biggest hydrogen bombs in the upper atmosphere, which may or may not have caused a brief distortion to the planet’s magnetic field. It certainly added to the strontium in my bones, helping future archaeologists to put a date on my remains.

It is the only time I had ever seen an Aurora Borealis with my own eyes and I still remember it vividly. It was Barnum’s big light show, as you should expect to see in Iceland. Yet the rest of winter is as dour as it always is – until the orange, yellow and blue of the crocus pierces the snow. I am partial especially to orange crocus. But no matter what color, it is a long awaited sight; promising spring and sunshine.

A mere promise, and always premature and misleading, and yet nothing expresses hope so much as the courageous crocus piercing the snow. Spring will come. It will. It must. (My ideal picture of happiness is a Mongolian camel – two humps and a dense furry coat – that I had seen on the National Geographic channel. After a days work they removed the harness and the animal with a spring of sheer joy in its step hustled to snack at the low branches of a tree. Parenthesis to the parenthesis: I’ve also seen God on National Geographic: a towering elephant with an inimitable swagger and arrogance and complete disregard – if there was a god, this was it.)

Back home however, there is more snow, more grey hanging in the air and weeks and weeks of slush and muddy roads. In some places winter is an ordeal and that’s how I remember it and feel about it. Muffle up, pat off the snow from your clothes, stomp the slush off your shoes, wear two pairs of socks AND high shoes to prevent the snow from soaking through (not always with success), the overheated interiors of houses and public transport, causing you constantly to button and unbutton in order to prevent catching a cold, which inevitably you will if you stay muffled up ALL the time, the constant damp underneath the outer layers of clothing … it’s just horrid, horrid, horrid. The occasional snowball fight, an afternoon out with the sledge or the inevitable snow man (I preferred to construct igloos), offer only brief respites. It’s cold and the breath is clouding the air. 

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