Monday February 13, 2012
Chilled to the bone
SAMBAL ON THE SIDE
By BRENDA BENEDICT
The writer entertains warm thoughts amidst the freezing cold.
I AM this close to caving in and purchasing a pair of pure sheepskin boots. Those chunky ones scorned by many a fashion maven.
Despite their promise of toasty toes, I’d always hesitated getting them. For one, those of us not blessed with endless pins like Elle McPherson will simply look like we’ve fashioned our footwear by halving tea cosies.
Yet the other day as I, like many of my fellow Frankfurters, scurried into the nearest heated shop in the city, I chanced upon the boots and my half frozen brain prompted: “Sometimes function must trump form.”
I trudged in and yanked at the price tag of one the leading brands. A simple, ankle-high pair costs €239 (RM956).
I decided that it was an exorbitance that I could do without, especially knowing that just outside, many of Frankfurt’s homeless were huddled in corners against the biting cold that has blighted most of Europe for close to two weeks now.
In terms of aesthetics, this winter couldn’t have been more beautiful – cloudless, blue skies and sunshine during the day; cloudless starry skies and bright moonlight at night. If you hadn’t already noticed the keyword here is “cloudless”.
The “culprit” for this phenomenon is the intense high pressure from the Russian plains.
Being winter, the nights are now longer and according to a BBC Weather Centre report “by night, cloud usually acts as a blanket, stopping heat that is in the ground from radiating away into the sky.”
So we have a no-win situation with short days, low ground heating, long nights and no blanket! Hence, the frigid temperatures.
So, what is it like to be out and about in -17°C weather? Well, your skin resembles dry parchment despite your lathering yourself with moisturiser. Your nails are chipped and your lips are chapped. Your eyes tear with each gust of bone chilling wind, your nose is runny and your head aches from the cold. Breathing can be painful if you’re running after a train, and yet you instinctively want to walk or run as quickly as possible to the nearest source of warmth.
Your fingers and toes freeze despite the gloves and three pairs of socks you have on. In fact, I wrote this instalment bundled under a couple of thermal vests, a thick pullover and fingerless gloves (ala Michael Jackson) and a sheepskin rug draped over my office chair for added warmth. And all this despite maximum heating.
Your New Year resolution to go down two dress sizes remains unfulfilled as all you want to eat is anything dripping in fat. Think fries, schnitzels, curry puffs or samosas. Some days I wish I could just plunge into a steaming vat of vindaloo – satiating my two-pronged need for instant heat and a spicy curry.
Nevertheless, I am thankful that I have a roof over my head and a radiator to hug. As I mentioned earlier, the homeless are a sorry sight and have my utmost sympathy. Sadly many across the continent have already succumbed to the cold.
So far this cold snap has claimed hundreds of lives across Europe, with Ukraine recording the most deaths at temperatures dipping below -30°C. Most of the victims were homeless. A more recent BBC report states that Russia and Kazakhstan have hit record lows, with the wind-chill factor in the latter bringing real temperature down to -52°C, even though the air temperature was -35°C. Honestly, I cannot even begin to imagine such cold.
Germany has also recorded a couple of deaths and according to the German Weather Service, warmer temperatures are unlikely in the coming days. Jurik Müller, a GWS meteorologist, was reported as saying that such weather conditions occur every 20 to 30 years. “We are dealing with a winter of extremes; first Mediterranean flair with weeks of frost-free nights, and now the sudden change to Arctic conditions.”
Perhaps the only beings enjoying these Arctic conditions are the polar bears themselves. A weekend edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (a national daily published in Frankfurt) featured a front-page picture of a polar bear sleeping snugly on ice at the Frankfurt Zoo.
As for me, I am now often greeted with, “Ach, du Arme!” (Oh, you poor thing!) by sympathetic neighbours whenever we bump into each other in the hallways.
And, of course, home-made soups from my mum-in-law is now always welcome.
n Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian living in Frankfurt. She believes that if the current cold continues to torment Europe, the balaclava may soon become a legit fashion accessory.