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London snow February 2010

London's beautiful in the snow.

It's rarely a beautiful city. Exhilarating, depressing, awe-inspiring, terrifying, yes, but rarely beautiful. It is tonight, though.

Tonight, like last year, the snow came in hard and suddenly late on a weeknight and tonight like last year I dropped what I was doing to go out and savour it. Snow's rare enough down here and so little bother to me personally that it's still magical as far as I'm concerned. And who anyway could worry about blocked driveways and frozen points when London's transformed like this?

London snow February 2010

Well gone midnight, with a soft shower still coming down, the dirt and noise and bustle of this grubby corner of east London are smothered below the night's still barely disturbed fall. There's only a faint hissing from the high road a couple of blocks away, traffic foolhardy enough to venture out on unsalted streets, and if you're determined to screen out reality you can imagine it's the sound of the snow itself piling gently up on branches and rooftops.

London snow February 2010

Only that and the crunch of my own footsteps, quickly swallowed up; I don't hear the other late-night walker until he's almost past me, and a fox scampering along in search of who knows what is surprised when I turn a corner practically nose to nose with him. He's quicker on his heels than I am with my camera, though, and I follow his tracks but they don't lead anywhere I can go.

London snow February 2010

That's the other thing to love, though. Millions of people bustling and scurrying through this city and putting not a dent on the world to show they were ever there; but tonight everyone leaves a trail. Those little steps slithering together into one long zigzag are surely a child charging along giggling, too young to realise that not every winter will be like this; the big measured strides alongside perhaps his father ready to scoop him up and brush him down every time his flailing limbs get the better of him. Over there, blurred and uncertain, are the prints of someone who realised too late their smooth-soled shoes were smart but impractical; over here someone else could doubtless trace where a late-night wanderer ambled aimlessly through the back streets, stopping every now and then to rest his camera on a wall or toss a snowball at nothing in particular, before circling back around and home.

London snow February 2010

The snow was melting a little by the time I got back, though. The last few days' cold clear air warmed up as soon as the snow clouds rolled over, and already dark tarmac circles are poking through the white. Maybe tomorrow it'll be gone altogether, or reduced to grimy black slush. Or maybe it'll thaw and refreeze into treacherous glassy ice sheets that cover nothing, transform nothing, and register no imprint of anything at all.

Date: 2010-01-06 05:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oof. Some beautiful stuff.

Snow is still pretty here but it is much more of an embuggerance. (Not as much as the ice, though. The other day I clambered out of the truck, slammed the door and then slid gently downhill. It took several minutes of comedy slithering around before I made it to safety.)

Date: 2010-01-06 12:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Cheers. (It was mostly inspired by your snapshots of Alaska, although me being me I am incapable of saying anything much in less than five times that word length). Wish I could figure out what happy accident made my shitty point-and-click camera focus so crisply in the first two shots.

And yeah, I'm sure if I spent a couple of years in Alaska then snow would quickly become a whole load of No Fun At All. But this is the second year now that a mild dusting of snow in London has been followed by panic-buying of food (there's corner shops every hundred yards, for feck's sake!) and mass hysteria because OMFG WE CAN'T GET TO WORK, as if that was the most important thing in creation. Remote Highland communities ( and those likely to break brittle bones on the ice can complain; the rest of yez stop whingeing, for feck's sake, and go build a snowman or something.

Which, since last night's pessimism was unfounded and the snow is still merrily coming down, I am now about to go and do. Hooray!
(deleted comment)

Date: 2010-01-06 12:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Marvellous - I was bloody-minded enough to not be that impressed by Edinburgh when I visited, but it must be gorgeous in the snow. Especially Arthur's Seat, if anyone was mad enough to hike up there in this weather...

Date: 2010-01-06 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Loveliness. And yes, it's always somewhat amusing when people freak out like that. When I lived in the Appalachians, it wasn't just that people needed to get to the store, they were panicked about specific items, which, for some reason, were always bread, milk, a toilet paper. Personally, if I'm going to be snowed in, there are other necessities. Coffee, for example. And possibly gin. But I guess most people must not go through those items very quickly and as they don't really expire are more easily kept on hand.

Date: 2010-01-07 09:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hah! Sounds about right. I could manage a few days without bread, milk and toilet paper and usually have more coffee than I could possibly devour even in the worst blizzard. But I did just go and stock up on beer in case tonight's threatened OMFG MEGAFREEZE somehow keeps me from reaching any of the six pubs and roughly 35 off-licences within a ten-minute walk of my flat.

Date: 2010-01-07 04:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Beautiful pictures. Thank you! Glasgow is beautiful too just now. The canal is frozen over, and the prints of dogs, foxes, birds, children, and one insane cyclist are all over it. Leaves are edged in white. The wall above the railway has ice-encrusted spider webs in the sheltered bits where the wind won't catch them, and Taji's footprints multiply by the day (his are the biggest. He's not the biggest dog, but he has *enormous* feet). Red rose hips delicately iced, snow on the distant hills, the magnificent colours of the sunset-- I love the snow and the cold, and the dogs are having a blast.

Date: 2010-01-07 09:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wish the canal near work would freeze. It'd be awesome enough that I'd be half-tempted to go wandering out on it myself (back at uni we had a winter when the canal running through Leamington froze solid enough that a football-sized lump of concrete dropped on it from ten or fifteen feet didn't even break through the surface...) On the one hand it's a pretty ( big canal (, being once the main artery for flooding the Home Counties with cheap East End-made industrial tat, and it'd take a lot of freezing. On the other hand it's apparently gonna hit -20 tonight... brr. Seems it's all because the Gulf Stream got bored with where it was and wandered off for a holiday in Greenland. (

Ice-encrusted spider webs? I haven't seen such a thing but they sound pretty. Think I'll go wandering with my camera in some likely corners.

Date: 2010-01-08 11:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They warned us about the gulf stream. Climate change deniers take note.

You get the frozen spiderwebs when you get an icy fog. We've had a lot of that up here lately. Obviously the spiders aren't building webs just now, except inside, where it's nice and warm (thank goodness for double glazing!), and I'm not going to disturb them, so the affected webs are usually old and broken, but it's an amazing thing to see anyhow.

I'd not go out on the canal myself. I've let Berkeley go out and scoot on the ice, but only where I've seen people have been. The water in the Forth of Clyde canal actually runs rather briskly, and ice can be unpredictable under those circumstances-- and near the little dock things and the locks it is thin to nonexistent. Not really worth the risk.


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