Monday 5 January 2009

Snow Patrol

"I want to walk in the snow and not leave a footprint" (The Manic Street Preachers)

Waking up, the city is still in dormant darkness, but the falling snowflakes are clearly visible in the orange street lamp glow. Putting my forehead to the cold kitchen windowpane, I see that a thin sheet is forming in the street below me. A steady flow of cars is keeping it from the roads, but the untrodden pavements are still pure virgin whiteness. Would I finally get to see Paris under a blanket of snow?

As I leave the appartment and head off for work, daylight is trying to push its way through the thick, snow-heavy clouds. The streetscene still looks like it belongs in a shake and snow globe, but the flakes, though abundant, are little more than sprinklings of ice. In the street, the first signs of the city fightback against the conditions are visible. The Metro staircase is liberally sprinkled with large grains of salt, burning ice and slippery dangers away. Scurrying pedestrians have eliminated most of the snow, leaving behind freezing puddles. Water is also dripping down from the rooftops, liquid traces of snow that melted under the steam of warm showers and the electric buzz of hundreds of computers being switched on.

At lunchtime, with the snow still falling heavily, a chance to explore. Will the familiar sights of the city look different in this unfamiliar weather? The reality is a chilly, watery world, with snow only visible in streaks, clutching on to rooftops and the naked branches of trees. In quieter streets, unused cars also provide a protected landing space for the snowflakes, and here there is enough for local schoolchildren to gather up for improvised snowball fights. Only through the locked up park gates, over iron fences into private gardens or across the most infrequently used train lines can true blankets of snow be glimpsed. As I walk, nowhere do I feel or hear the sliding crunch of fresh, packed snow under my feet.

On my return home from work, daylight has disappeared and temperatures are dropping back for the night. The city inhabitants can be heard grumbling about the conditions, about how it made them late, or wet or cold. The only ones we don't hear are the ones that truly suffer, the lady with her cat at the Metro entrance, and the man curled up with a sleeping bag in a shop window.

The snow has stopped now, but the pockets and corners that have survived the day will freeze into place overnight and provide a welcoming base for fresh falls. It has snowed all day in Paris, but the promised blanket never became anymore than a thin, white sheet. In this overpopulated city of gas, electricity, and perpetual movement, temperatures are knocked up a crucial degree or two higher than in the surrounding towns. Maybe I'll wake up to the sight of weighty piles of snow on surrounding rooftops tomorrow, but I don't think I'll encounter a snowman. This is a battle that the city always seems to win.

An arctic cold wind this morning has turned slushy puddles into slippery mirrors, but there were no fresh snow flurries overnight. Opposite my appartment though I prop my camera up onto the corrugated iron fence that blocks off the wasteland and catch this snap. Over 24 hours after the first flakes fell, there are still some parts of the city where the snow has stayed untouched and unmolested, and which has managed to avoid all human created warmth.


Starman said...

If it ever really snowed in Paris, you would experience a near-total, city-wide shutdown. A nice dusting is enough.

Starman said...

On the other hand, if you were a few km outside the city, you could experience this:

Anonymous said...

You wrote this beautifully - I really enjoyed reading it.
Cheers, Emily.

ArtSparker said...

Lovely post. I like the quiet that comes with snow, and occasionally there is a warmth (when it is drifting down, not in a blizzard).

Squirrel said...

Very pretty. Nice writing! Weather extremes are always hardest on the most invisible people.

our snow melted away, people panic at 2 or 3 inches of snow here, and if it snows more it becomes SNoWStOrM of the CeNtURY! haaa... I love snow.

PeterParis said...

Not easy to find untouched white snow in a big city... and as you say, the park gates were closed (except the Tuileries and the Luxembourg)!

A wonderful, so well written story again!

Cergie said...

Les traces de pas sont bien anodines, elles vont s'effacer comme les bonhommes de neige vont disparaitre. De l'art éphémère. Alors que quoi des traces dans du goudron ou du ciment frais ? Elles me font penser à ces murs qui gardent les reliques des anciens papiers pains : celui de la cuisine n'est pas le même que celui de la chambre d'enfant. Comme une maison de poupée pour géant.

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