Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

geese in snow

Heavy snowfalls in London are extraordinarily rare these days — the last one, apparently, took place in the early 1960s — which made last night’s near-blizzard all the more welcome, at least to those of us who didn’t have to be anywhere in particular today.

Chinatown in snow

St. James's Park in snow

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

  1. JL

    Lovely! Though a few months worth of regular snowfalls here, a number of them rather heavy (though no true blizzards–only a couple gave us a foot of snow at a time) have made me a little more eager to see the ground once more, muddy and brown though it may be. Last weekend we had our first decent melt in weeks, but it’s snowing now, and will until tomorrow some time. Ah well.

  2. ETat

    The slimy groundhog just predicted 6 more weeks of winter here. The mean bastard even bit the mayor!

    Are those ducks from the Kensington Park’ pond? Mercifully, the snow covered the products of their digestion…in September they totally ruined the idyllic landscape for me.

    By now the lovely white has probably turned into slushy brown…

  3. ETat, those are geese from the lake at St James’s Park — although there were ducks, too, just out of shot — and the snow is, indeed, increasingly sparse now, especially in the centre of London.

    JL, when I write ‘blizzard’, I do of course employ the term in its specialised London sense of, ahem, snow that actually settles anywhere and then lasts for, oh, at least a few hours — thus crippling all public services, rendering work and education impossible, and generally bringing serious, sensible endeavour to a halt for the duration. Admittedly, the novelty is part of the charm. So, too, is the sense of benign, probably entirely unnecessary catastrophe, our willed helplessness in the face of unusual weather.

    Of course today, there’s a great deal of plangent whining about how unprepared ‘we’ are for snow, how the schools should have stayed open, how other countries apparently run to airports, motorways and railway networks that function with snowflakes both in the air and on the ground. All of which rather misses the point that many people here are frankly bored by everyday life, and thus don’t much mind, every decade or two, seeing everyday life completely disrupted by some mostly-harmless, extremely pretty meteorological intervention.

    Anyway, we’re very much back to everyday life this morning — complete with everything that failed to get done over the past two days of building snowmen, chucking snowballs and going for pleasantly purposeless walks. Sigh!

  4. JL

    Far be it from me to suggest that the groundhog has perpetrated a fraud on us, ETat, but does the beginning of February ever mean anything but six more weeks of winter? Lousy weather through mid-March is a bet I’d make any time. On the other hand, it’s supposed to warm up a bit this weekend, so perhaps there’s some hope in sight.

    I must say while many people around here disparage the sort of places that surrender when a few inches of snow pile up on the ground, it’s something of which I thoroughly approve. Whatever virtue comes from skidding down slippery roads, I think I’ve earned enough of it for now. I’m all for giving in to the weather, canceling everything, and having a little snowy fun, especially if followed by hot chocolate. Mmm, hot chocolate.

  5. Mmm, hot chocolate indeed!

    Don’t forget warmed-up apple crumble, though, JL — especially apple crumble made with apples of ancient if marginally obscure lineage — not without its charms on a snowy evening.

    (The snow’s almost all gone now — as, come to think of it, is the apple crumble.)

  6. JL

    Apples of ancient, marginally obscure lineage are my favorite kind. Especially if they’ve got a good name, like Coe’s Golden Drop or Westfield Seek–No-Further. I’ve nothing against the modern varieties, many of which are very fine indeed, but too often they’ve been given names (Gala, Fuji, etc.) that lack the poetry of the older ones.

    An apple crumble sounds very good indeed, though lately bread pudding has been my choice. I’ve been baking a sweet oatmeal sandwich bread a lot this winter, the recipe for which someone has very handily put online (I’ve generally done the variation with brown sugar, but I’m sure the maple is also tasty.) I make a few small changes, most notably using active dry yeast and proofing it in some of the reserved water before adding it in (I don’t think I’ve ever even seen instant yeast for sale) and giving it more time to rise–with AP and whole wheat flour, it’s not the most high-protein dough, so it needs a little patience. But it’s very good, if not suited to every application (it’s particularly excellent with smoked meats and cheese, and–I’m not kidding–peanut butter and jelly, but would be strange in a toasted cheese sandwhich. As toast, of course, it’s superb.)

    The recipe makes two loaves, though, which is too much for us to go through before it goes stale. And so the half loaf or so that remains gets torn up, mixed with milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt (some frozen blueberries, too, on occasion) and goes into the oven. It’s not bad at all, I must say, especially with a bit of cream on it just after it’s come out; just thing to have after shoveling the drive and walk.

  7. ETat

    Small world: I was just reading Deb’s recipe of Whole Lemon Tart @Smitten Kitchen – and JL linked to a bread baker whose blogroll include Smitten Kitchen, too!

    It’s usually consistently warmer than 40F here in mid-March (unless AlGore decides to visit NY for one of his mis-prophecies); we’ll see if the little beast was right this time. I mean the groundhog.

    I never dared to bake bread; yeast dough, by childhood memories of my grandma’s excellent baking, seems too complicated and easy to screw up. Luckily, I have a great Greek place a block down the street from me – and they bake artisanal bread; just bought Multigrain, it smells so good.

    Our snow of 2 days ago melted, too; can’t say I miss it much.

  8. Weather report: today, instead of snow, we have very insistent rain that somehow can’t quite figure out whether freezing’s the way forward. And no, I’m not really looking forward to going out into it in a couple of hours’ time.

    As for apples — agreed, JL. What marvellous names! Here, Cox’s Orange Pippin is, despite its familiarity, still rather prettily titled — and what about the Cornish Gilliflower, Blenheim Orange, or the Worcester Pearmain? Even a rather amateurish crumble benefits from all that historical resonance and geographical specificity.

    Finally, reading so much about home-made bread is proving worryingly compelling.

    When did I last bake bread? Other than a few didactic ‘this is where bread comes from’ sessions with my son in his toddler days, I think it must have been during the final stages of writing up my PhD — not sure what I was trying to tell myself there, either — but perhaps, despite eventually giving up on the whole professional historian career path, I should have stuck with the baking? ETat has a strong point about the benefits of good local shops. On the other hand, even slightly defective bread smells amazing when it comes out of the oven.

    Hmm. Well, if I give in to baking-related temptation over the weekend, I’ll certainly let you both know how it goes.