Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Playground Bully

When I was ten years old a family move meant that I joined a new school. As is the custom in London, my status as the "new boy" combined with spectacles meant that I was the natural target of the playground bully. Given that the school employed individuals whose primary responsibility was to prevent such activities, it puzzles me how, two or three times a week, I would spend "playtime" having my hair pulled and arms twisted into pretzel-like configurations.

But the English are a confusing people, particularly when one has the benefit of looking back at that Sceptered (septic?) Isle from the left side of The Pond. Their capacity to talk about the weather is particularly remarkable for the simple reason that, in England, there isn't any. Not real weather. It's true that, every now and then, a "heatwave" will scorch London as the temperatures rocket into the 80s for a week. And crippling winter storms will dump a couple of inches of snow on The Smoke thereby rendering all travel by road, rail, sleigh and foot totally impossible. But for three hundred and twenty days or so every year you will not be far wrong if you predict the weather to be upper 50s and overcast.

In North East Kansas we have weather. And the winter of 2009/10 is going to go down in my personal record books as one of the nastiest five months ever. The weather is a sensible topic of conversation here not only because there is some, but because it changes so rapidly. Most winters will include brutally frigid episodes, but usually we get a few weeks relief with warm days and clear skies. Not this time. Week after week the temperatures stuck rigidly below average by twenty degrees. On the rare occasions when the slate-grey sky gave way to sunshine, it got colder still. I stopped counting the number of winter storm warnings and the total snowfall accumulation in mid-January. It was around that time I went to bed.

Last week the flowers began to bloom. Crocuses, early dwarf irises, and the daffodils just about ready to open their petals on the Vernal equinox when...

Yes, I know the snow will melt. And while half my daffodils appear to have been wiped out I specifically plant a second wave extra deep for situations like this. There will still be a radiant yellow explosion in my yard welcoming the longer days.

But it seems to me that Winter was making a point. The playground bully was walking away, but noticing that his victim was rising unsteadily from the ground, he stopped, looked over his shoulder, and sneered. And then the playground bully kicked his victim in the balls to underline his timeless promise.

"I'll be back in November."

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