Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Winter Talk

It is winter finally. I had been hearing that it was going to be the worst winter in the last twenty years but the temperatures in Bologna had continued to be good. It felt more like spring than winter. Then, ten days ago, finally the winter came. Still I was going out with a light jacket.

Acquaintances from our apartment block would slowly shake their heads and complain, “It is so cold”. Actually, I didn’t think so, but I played along and said, “It is time now for winter. Almost the end of November. It won’t be right if it was not cold!”

Talking about the temperatures with casual acquaintances is like a game. In the summer it goes like “It is so hot you know!” “This heat is unbearable.” “I wish this heat would end. I am tired of it.” And then it becomes, “It is so cold you know!” “This cold is so tiring and depressing.” “I am waiting for the spring.” Like steps of valtzer. Predictable. You say this, then I say this and then you say that and then we will shake our heads, smile at each other and go away happy, that we played our parts well.

***

But now real winter has come. Before going to Geneva, I looked at the expected temperatures in Switzerland on the internet. Minus sixteen! I almost felt sick. Must have taken those temperatures outside the Algida ice-cream factory, I thought, but I was afraid. So off went the light jacket and out came the thick winter overcoat. It was a wise decision as it turned out. It was very cold and it snowed. And it was so windy, almost like London, with cold gale brushing over the bumpy waters of lake Leman, pushing hard at you.

Katarina!”, I told myself. I was making joke of John Grisham when he had been startled with a frightened expression during a thunderstorm  during a meeting in Bologna some time ago. But every time, there was some wind in Geneva, it was the first thing that came to my mind, Katarina. Wonder what do all the Katarinas of the world think about the idea of giving names of girls to typhoons. Must have been some unhappily married man or a tormented father, who had come up with idea?

The journey back from Geneva was very eventful. I was coming through Munich, that looked like a big white wedding cake with lovely icing on the top. Actually more like a big thick white blanket that the town had pulled up to save itself from cold. The flight to Bologna started late and on the seat next to me, there was a grumpy man, who made faces when he had to get up to let me pass on to the window seat.

What injustice, I have to share this row with others” he seemed to say. Said something in German, that I didn’t understand and perhaps it was better that way. When the flight started, he bullied the air-hostess to go to an empty row in business class. Good riddance, I thought.

I had my camera ready but the Alps were lost under the clouds. Bologna too was lost under the clouds and after going around in circles for some time, the pilot announced that Bologna airport was closed due to heavy snow and we were going to Pisa. The grumpy old man started fighting with the airhostess. “We should go to Rimini, that is closer”, he insisted. This time in Italian.

The airhostess smiled at him and told him nicely to sit down and put on the seat belt. “Ignorant bitch” he hissed, loudly enough. To punish him probably, the pilot started to rock the little aircraft, up and down it went.

God, I am going to miss Marco’s wedding, was my first thought. Probably they will cancel the marriage, I consoled myself.

But we didn’t crash. And it was raining in Pisa. It took us three hours of bus drive to reach Bologna, through the snow and all. And, all the time, I was thinking, we were in Pisa, they could have organised a small trip for us to go around the city. A picture in front of the leaning tower! That would have been lovely.

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