The weather gods are clearly engaged in one of those parties where you drunkenly leave your keys in a big bowl and pick out each others’ spouses/climatic responsibilities. The autumn guy got harsh mid-winter, the mid-winter guy got damp autumn and, as we will soon see, the spring guy probably got tornadoes-falls-of-frogs-and-other-freakish-stuff. So here we are cruising through January in the kind of weather usually reserved for March having just scraped through December in the kind of weather usually reserved for nuclear winters and Götterdämmerung.
This week was the first instalment of spring. I hope you enjoyed it because the next one is due around the middle of August. Looking through my window now I notice a fog so thick I can barely see the other end of my myopia. I guess this means it’s getting cold again. I’ve seen more fog in this town over the past three years than I saw in 20 years in England. I will never take English-fog jokes seriously ever again. When the milk-thick conspiracy clears in the morning I will be greeted by a hideous foretaste of early Polish urban spring—probably the most ghastly season since “Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun” was sold to Cadbury.
Who hath not seen yon limp pale yellow grass so like your hair after a 4-day winter boat of fever
Never visit a Polish city in March, even in years when March has been swapped with late October for no apparent reason—it’s not worth the risk. Apart from the feverish grass and the stick-dead trees and the sunless buildings caked in salt there are the snow-melt piles. Snow-melt piles are, as the name suggests, piles of stuff left behind when piles of snow melt. The piles of snow are created by the incredibly efficient road-and-pavement-clearing people. Unfortunately they do not contain only snow—all kinds of other frozen stuff gets vigorously shovelled into these heaps. As the snow-melt pile melts, several levels of civilisation are revealed:
A generalised level of black grime that makes you acutely aware that just breathing city air is about the same a smoking intravenously.
General litter consisting almost entirely of discarded leaflets for instant credit being handed out by that dodgy guy still wearing a Santa Clause outfit in the middle of January.
An enormous quantity of dog crap. I wish I could put it more nicely, but this is the stuff of urban grit… and speaking of grit…
Grit. Grit mixed with 700 thousand cigarette butts. According to my calculations, cigarette butts are the principal ingredient in that stuff they spray on the roads to prevent you gracefully brake-sliding into oncoming buses.
Just some amorphous dirt. Where does all the other nasty stuff go? Items two through four are just gone, although there has been no obvious intervention by people wearing hazmat suits and grave demeanours.