Thursday, 31 January 2013

Snow, cold and far too early thawing...

Europe has been deluged with snow for the last two weeks, and a bitterly cold snap. It's been many years since I have lived in such an old house and experienced some of the drawbacks of pre-central heating construction. I've developed an amazing ability to spring gazelle like from bed and dive almost instantaneously into my clothes. I've learned to squirrel the next days underclothes under the pillow to impart a modicum of warmth to them and Louie the Cat is developing a smug look as he gets to break the bar from travelling upstairs as a result of his regular hotwater bottle duties. Calls of nature have become short and sweet, as each visit entails a brush with potential hypothermia, and definite frostbite on parts of one's anatomy.

All this said, I am sad that the weather has warmed up and the snow has left. I wanted it to stay for a few more weeks as the Netherlands was gripped for a few short days with speculation as to whether this year would be the year the Elfstedentocht ran again.

The Elfstedentocht is a skating tour almost 200 km in length, following a route along frozen canals, rivers and lakes visiting the eleven historic Frisian cities: Leeuwarden, Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker, Dokkum, then returning to Leeuwarden. The finishing point of the Elfstedentocht is a canal near Leeuwarden, called the "Bonkevaart", close to the landmark windmill, De Bullemolen, Lekkum. The tour is only if the ice is, and remains, at least 15 centimetres thick along the entire course as about 15,000 amateur skaters may take part, putting high requirements on the quality of the ice. There is also a professional standard race for 300 skaters which requires snap decisioning to partake in, as the announcement of a 'go' is made a mere 48 hours before the race is run.

As of 17 January 2013 the last tours were held in 1985, 1986 and 1997, so the prospect of a possible go decision causes a flurry of anticipation.Even the military and emergency services get warning of possible duty roster changes.

Sadly, it's not going to be this January. We may get another chance in February, so I'm doing many snow-dances in preparation.

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