Winter has arrived in Ireland with the stealth of a thief in the night. The cold has crept over the landscape and into homes across Derry and people are preparing for the seasonal battle by turning up the heat and wrapping up as much as they can when venturing outside.
The past few days have seen a silvery haze descend as heavy fog and a blanket of frost have made themselves at home with the sun looking on in vain, weakened by the forces of nature as we make our way towards the Winter Solstice. The outline of the tops of trees can be seen in the distance and the fog has been so thick that you’d be forgiven for thinking the world had disappeared.
I haven’t encountered ice in more than five years after living in the glorious warmth of Dubai and I had forgotten how cold it could get at home. I sat in my car for 30 minutes on Thursday morning, waiting for the windscreen ice to melt. My windscreen wipers are not used to the freezing conditions either and had decided to go on strike, refusing to remove anything from the glass.
The ground surrounding me was glistening with the overnight frost and I was admiring the beauty of it all until I remembered I lived on a hill. I had visions of a demolition derby at the bottom of the hill as my neighbours attempted to get to work in the slippery conditions. But luckily, it looked as if the local council had sent out its trusty troop of salt scatterers (I made that word up) to make sure all the main roads, and a few of the secondary ones, were freeze-free. You’ve probably never heard of them; they are specially constructed lorries that scatter little chunks of salt across the roads to keep the ice from setting in. They are quite the miracle workers, and there is no greater sight when you’re stuck in a tight and treacherous spot than that of a truck loaded with freedom-giving salt!
As I sat in my car waiting for the great defrost to begin, I saw that a bottle of water I had left in there overnight had also frozen. My hands were going in the same direction so I decided to get out and chip away at the ice using an old credit card I still had in my purse from when I lived in Dubai. It worked a treat and I drove off with the heating system blazing and a little hole of ice-free window to look through. Perfect.
Last week, in my International Relations class, we discussed feminism and how it relates to the global system. I wondered if ice would have a different effect on men and women in Derry. There’s a bit of an anomaly in Derry as many households seem to be matriarchal.
Days like this make a person glad to be alive. That I would be able to see such natural beauty is an amazing gift, just as mittens and scarves are. Once you get past the initial terror of realising you don’t know where the rear window defrost button is, or where the anti-freeze goes, then it’s pretty much smooth sailing, or sometimes skidding. Gone are the days when my worst fear was whether my tyres would burst on Shaikh Zayed Road with the heat of summer, or whether the blinding glare of the sun would cause a crash if — shock, horror — I had forgotten to bring my sunglasses. But despite the cold and the danger of slipping, the cosy nights inside, wrapped up in a blanket with a pair of huge woollen socks, a hot water bottle and a cup of hot chocolate, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Still, it can’t hurt to check out flights to Dubai in the New Year.
Christina Curran is a journalist currently studying a Masters in International Relations at Queen’s University, Belfast.