TheOttawacker

By TheOttawacker

Can a photo capture minus 35?

Awoken at 7 by a robo-calling credit card scam. I struggled across the floor to the phone, picked up and heard the ominous silence - if silence, ominous or otherwise, can be heard. I was so stunned, I couldn't even launch a tirade of abuse at the receiver. 

This is why people don't have landlines anymore, isn't. 

As it happens, I am in between contracts, a situation that pleases me intensely. While Ottawacker Jr. was slogging away at his genders (he's learning French, not transitioning) and Mrs. Ottawacker was attending a meeting at which she was required only to listen, a task she executed by lying on the floor with her eyes closed, I decided to help out around the house by getting in the garbage cans, which had been emptied early and carefully left in the middle of the street by our friendly, neighbourhood sanitation engineers.

I managed to pick my way carefully down the drive, which resembles a black diamond run when it is icy (which it was) and noticed something rather strange. Despite wearing two sweaters, a scarf, two pairs of gloves and a knee length coat. I was freezing. The wind was whipping through my clothes as if I were wearing nothing. It was, in short, colder than Priti Patel's heart.

Among the many variations of the same conversation Mrs. Ottawacker and I have regularly (during which, I should point out, she never lies on the floor with her eyes closed) is the hoary old chestnut of the Ottawa winter. I quite like crisp cold days and, as I was saying only yesterday to SparseRunner, visions of snow-covered Scottish highlands with iced over lochs make me sort of nostalgic for the winter. It's not that I don't like winter per se, it's just that I don't like "freezing my tits off".

Let me explain why. 

When I first arrived In Canada, young and tender in September 1993, I had visions of the glorious snow-covered vistas of the Canadian winterscape. I was ready to embrace winter. Indeed, until I went to Quebec City for New Year, I was doing alright. I went skating on the canal, went cross-country skiing, went snowshoeing across lakes in the Eastern Townships. I was becoming Canadian. How I mocked those who complained at the -5 in England or the, heaven forbid, 2 cm of snow. 

1993 was an epic winter. We had the first dump of snow two weeks after I arrived. I was working under the table for a government office. This involved getting up at 4 in the morning, walking down the lengthy stretches of a deserted Bank Street from the Glebe to Sparks Street (2-3 miles) and writing summaries of news stories in a hurried 5-hour shift. Then I walked back along a moderately less-deserted Bank Street. All this in the freezing cold. And it didn't bother me one bit.

But then Quebec City happened. My wife at the time (she soon saw the error of her ways!) and I drove up to visit my German friend Dirk for New Year. As we drove up, I noticed a rather strange phenomenon happening. The windscreen was freezing on the inside. Not the namby-pamby mm of ice I showed in a blip a couple of days ago, but thick full-on ice. We made it to Quebec City reasonably enough, chipped away at ice then went for a walk on the Plaines d'Abraham, the big park on the cliff top overlooking the St. Lawrence. (Dirk, being of the German persuasion, insisted on exercise before alcohol. Who am I to argue?)

So off we went for a walk. Never, ever, the history of my life, have I ever been so cold. The winds were whipping in along the St. Lawrence, bringing cascades of freezing ice pellets with them, which whipped your face (were you stupid enough to not have it buried beneath layers of clothing), which permeated every single item of clothing your wore, which chafed nipples froze the eyeballs, which shrank testicles, no matter how high they had retreated back into the body in search of warmth. This walk was interminable. I naively assumed it would be a five-minute hike along the front to a pub in the old town. (In fairness, I assumed this because he told me it would  be a five-minute hike along the front to a pub in the old town.) One hour and seven minutes we were out walking. I was covered head to toe in snow when we made it back to the apartment. I stood in the hallway while everyone else got changed and went to sit by the fire. I was still there 15 minutes later. Stunned. Shocked. Scarred.

The extra is of me 5 minutes into the walk. I have never recovered. I doubt I ever will.

Anyway, something changed and the trip back to Ottawa (where we once again had glaciers growing on the inside of the windscreen) didn't help. I started getting a taxi to work, put my skates into storage and decided cross-country skiing was a terrible idea.  I should have realized, I suppose, on an earlier trip to Niagara Falls, (extra 2) that things would be difficult... If much of the falls can ice over, well, you know winter will be bad.

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