Friday, December 19, 2008

Happily Cold in California

During the month of December in Abu Dhabi, the temperature climbs to upwards of 75 degrees every afternoon, the sun shines cheerfully from dawn until dusk, and the blue of the Arabian sky never falters. Except for the very occasional freak rain shower, each day unfolds as a perfect meteorological duplicate of the one before it.

To anyone who's lived through a bitter midwest winter or knows what it's like to fear going ouside so much that things like social engagements, exercise, and basic nourishment all become second in importance to staying warm, December in Abu Dhabi probably sounds like paradise. But when you take the cruel coldness out of winter, you lose all the best parts of the season which exist to defy it: fires, apple cider, scarves and mittens, sweaters, hot meals.

Let me quote Charles Dickens in Our Mutual Friend to show you what I mean:

At length the door stood open, and Mr. Fledgeby's retreating drapery plunged into bed again. Following it at a respectful distance, Riah passed into the bed-chamber, where a fire had been sometime lighted, and was burning briskly.

"Why, what time of night do you mean to call it?" inquired Fledgeby, turning away beneath the clothes, and presenting a comfortable rampart of shoulder to the chilled figure of the old man.

"Sir, it is full half-past ten in the morning."

"The deuce it is! Then it must be precious foggy?"

"Very foggy, sir."

"And raw, then?"

"Chill and bitter," said Riah....

With a plunge of enjoyment, Fledgeby settled himself afresh.

"Any snow, or sleet, or slush, or anything of that sort?" he asked.

"No, sir, no. Not quite so bad as that. The streets are pretty clear."

"You needn't brag about it," returned Fledgeby, disappointed in his desire to heighten the contrast between his bed and the streets.

While there is as little snow, sleet, or slush to be found in Berkeley as there is in Abu Dhabi, the weather is chilly enough here to warrant plenty of bundling-up before venturing out of doors. It's nice to come inside shivering and peeling off layers of clothing as you slowly thaw in front of the furnace, and nicer still to hunker down under heaps of blankets each night as you go to bed. Dickens, always a keen observer of the little pains and pleasures of life, was definitely onto something.

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