By:

30-12-2001

So we've had a white Christmas in Prague this year. Well, four days before Christmas Eve some snow fell, about 10 centimetres, and stayed till midday Christmas Day. The drip drip dripping from roofs went on all Christmas Day and by late afternoon, all roads and pavements were bare and almost dry and old grass started to show on the lawns.

This situation has been more common than not in the last few years and citizens of Prague have become used to muddy Christmas holidays. I guess I'm not yet old enough to be nostalgic about the old days and how nothing is the way it used to be anymore. But in one respect, I have every right to be nostalgic, and that is the weather.

When I was a little kid, some twenty years ago, winters in Prague were different. We would get enormous amounts of snow every year - very often I would be woken up by the unpleasant sound of a shovel scraping on the pavement as a neighbour cleaned away the snow in front the main door in the darkness of a winter morning. On my way to school I would look for icy patches on the pavement to slide on and in front of the school building I would join in a snowball fight (both these enjoyable activities were strictly forbidden by the teachers). Licking icicles and eating the snowballs was great fun too - and also banned. After school we would ski and ride bobsleighs on the slope at the back of our house. We also built igloos and snowmen with carrot noses and brooms in their hands. And these snow sculptures would last for days... When low temperatures were forecast for a longer period, the adults in the neighbourhood would get together and using the limitless socialist water from a street hydrant, they would change a playground into an outdoor skating rink. There we could circle all day long till our feet went numb with cold. For PE classes we would bring our skates to school and go out to one of these many rinks and skate instead of sweating in a stuffy gym. In every building and on many a street corner there used to be a big wooden box full of sand used to sprinkle the pavements with. I didn't notice when exactly these boxes disappeared. The fact is that hardly anybody misses them as they are no longer needed.

The less snow we get, however, the more vulnerable we seem to become to severe weather conditions. It's old news that the road crews are taken by surprise every winter. But the amount of snow, which halted road traffic in my part of town last week, would have made any road worker laugh twenty years ago. So I joined the crowds and watching my step I walked to the nearest tram stop half an hour away to get in to work on time to read the news.

I don't know what causes this change in whether patterns; is global warming responsible or is it just a natural cycle? I quite like the fact that I can make it through winter without a hat, thick gloves or high boots but if I were a child I would definitely miss all the fun we used to have with snow and ice. What worries me is that we might be getting too spoilt, soft and vulnerable. It is so easy to get used to comfort but I guess we should be always prepared for a snowstorm.

30-12-2001