Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Toes of Blue


It's not so much a confession as a reflection on where we live, and perhaps to a lesser extent where we choose to travel, to reveal the strange truth that it's entirely possible to have lived for half a century, traveled to the farthest-flung reaches of the globe, and never stood under falling snow.

The first time we saw snow at all it was at the top of Australia's highest peak. It was not so much a cap as a deposit of dirty gritty ice in a small depression. In volume and texture it was something akin to the the party-ice deposit on the lawn after emptying the Esky the morning after a small get together; clumps and lumps of crushed ice mingled with the all manner of good-time detritus, but to us it was snow and we walked on it and threw lumps of ice at one another and wondered why snow balls seem so much like painless fun in the movies.

It was of course 40°c at the time and we were dressed entirely appropriately for an hour of romping on ice, in shorts, singlets and bare feet. My big toenails stayed blue for a week.

A decade later, we were on a train in another world and caught our first glimpse of the Swiss Alps and with that the knowledge of what snow capped peaks were supposed to look like. While we never managed to get closer than a few kilometres to the snow, we did feel more than a little sheepish about our earlier enthusiasm.

A further twenty years elapsed before, while travelling in New Zealand in late Autumn, we realised that there was snow in them thar hills, and set off to get us some! "Them thar hills" turned out to be Mt Cook, New Zealand's tallest peak, and not renowned as a gentle place for barefoot singlet wearing tourists who'd never seen snow, so in exchange for a sum of money which pretty much equalled all we could borrow against the equity we had in our house, we took a helicopter to the peak, and stood for a few minutes in the previous year's winter. We even threw snowballs of somewhat less density than our previous experience, and being worldly wise by then, we knew that this stuff, which was the texture of a SnoCone, was still not the fluffy powder stuff of which true winter romance was made.

Snowflakes that stayed on our nose and eyelashes continued to evade us.

Then came the call.

It was Easter Sunday. Evening for us, but morning for those who chose to live in London.

"Hi Dad, guess what we've got?" enquired the cheery voice on the other end of the phone.

Well I knew it was hardly going to be a pony, as their flat was far too small for that sort of thing: "Flurries of snow" I replied cooly, almost matter of factly, trying to maintain the steady air of a father who has worked hard to build a reputation for having an immense depth of knowledge of all things, but who had actually been talking to Paula on Thursday about her brother's plans for the weekend, which involved travel out of London into the wilds of Birmingham or somewhere despite the forecast of "occasional snow flurries".

Flurries of snow indeed!

We didn't need any magic shoes, with three clicks of the magic mice on our respective computers we were transported half a world away. In the blink of an eye we were there with them on their balcony watching the snow fall.

Shell's toes had already turned exactly the same colour as that of her dressing gown, (which indeed was a very similar colour to her father's toes all those years ago) before she decided to adopt a more suitable form of foot attire.

She threw a snowball at us. It wasn't like the others we'd experienced. This one was soft and fluffy and we didn't feel it at all.

For half an hour we played vicariously in the falling snow, enjoying the experience as though we were there. We were. Right there. On their balcony. Kept warm behind our little screen and keyboard.

I had been barefoot, dressed in shorts and singlet, but my toes weren't blue.

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1 comment

Shell said...

That photo could have been taken 30 years ago! I'm glad we all got to experience the snow together!

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