So The Great Thaw has begun. Walking to the Tete D’Or yesterday evening, the sun just managing to stay afloat above the Fourvière, I smelt spring. Finally unfrozen, my nostrils picked up the faint smell of grass. Not the freshly cut kind of a municipal park on Mayday, or the rich, heavy odour of a cow meadow in August. But simply the light scent of sodden grass. Barely alive. Hanging on in there like everything else.
I read in the local daily that the flamingos in the zoo had to be taken to an incubated unit because they were suffering from avian frostbite.
AFRICAN BIRDS IN ARCTIC WINTER NIGHTMARE
read the headline…well, actually it didn’t. It read:
LES ANIMAUX DE LA TÊTE D’OR SONT PROTÉGÉS DU FROID
(The animals are protected from the cold)
I walk towards the lake and notice that it’s still frozen inches deep despite the thaw around me. Rocks, cigarette packets, sweet wrappers, broken sticks, half eaten kebabs, condoms, beer cans, all firmly embedded in the grey mass where they were discarded. If we suddenly slipped into a cataclysmic ice age and this layer was unearthed by a palaeontologist in a million years time, he might note the following: Human Beings were certainly alive at this period. Yet the abundant evidence of alcohol, tobacco and fast food at the Tete D’Or site clearly indicates that homo sapiens were not as stupid as first thought. They simply didn’t give a shit…
I circle the lake looking at the ducks hopelessly waddling on the ice and head up to The White House. In warmer months it’s a restaurant; in winter, it just sits there getting cold and less white. There’s a bench that gives a good view across to the golden gate and the main entrance to the park. There’s not as much litter up this end and it’s pleasant now that it isn’t as cold.
I was up on Fourvière Hill on Sunday looking around the Roman ruins while the Arctic wind machine I wrote about a few weeks ago was still in full operation. Whoever had designed that thing had made it to last. I can take the cold, but after a while of getting hit full in the face every morning by a wind that originates in a place where they eat seals instead of paninis for lunch, I start to get annoyed.
But on Monday morning it changed. It was only slight, but when I noticed that the wind had edged round to the South a notch, I knew the winter was over. OK, so it snowed Tuesday night, but this was nothing to panic about, as by lunchtime the city was free of snow and ice for the first time in months.
I breathe in a lungful of air. The smell of the sodden grass makes my senses come alive and my mind wanders to the spring. April and May. Such a contrast to the months spent trudging through the ice and snow; wrapped in layers that take too long to put on and to take off. Weeks spent going back and forth to work in the darkness as though the sun had been turned off to cut costs.
And then, just as you’re about to erect the gallows, spring explodes onto the scene. What a joyous occasion. The ever lightening nights, the gay chirps of the birds in the greening trees, the warming breeze on your face each morning as you cycle to work. The first pint of summer cider in the garden overlooking the brook. Everything about spring is good. Even the passing of my years knowing that with each one there is one less to go, never dampens my mood. I feel eternal.
I step up from the bench and start wandering back home along the path on the other side of the lake. The wind picks up and cruelly blows against my face. I turn around and glare at it and growl. It blows once more, strong and determined, but as I stand there resolute, it knows it cannot win. As like us, the wind machine knows, it cannot go on forever.