Jeremy Atiyah on a winter break in
This might seem eccentric, but I'm taking a winter break in
04 February 2001
That's why I'm here now, sitting and reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, in an apartment that doesn't need curtains because the windows are opaque with ice. Am I nurturing an obsessive desire for extra ladles of porridge or fishbone soup, or grams of bread if I am lucky? Not at all. Because as I keep saying:
All right, the cold creates some inconvenience. The front door of my block freezes on its hinges so that the colder it is, the more force I need to open it. Step out, and my nostrils and eyelashes then freeze equally solid. I also need to watch out for the open manholes in the pavements, which sometimes disappear under piles of snow. This morning, near my home, I noted footsteps leading to one of these holes, then vanishing. Another wino bites the dust.
The only other drawback of severe cold is that Siberians tend not to talk if they can help it. I can understand this. To open your mouth, is to undo a layer. Some walk with fags in their mouths, apparently as a means of generating extra warmth, and the local trams are foggy with their wordless breath.
But this needn't bother a tourist. I walk around town, exclaiming aloud over weird snow and ice formations: one great pile of frost, for example, sits three metres thick, like a shaggy beard hanging from a wall-vent; and the rubble of months of impacted snow, when ripped up with the help of pick-axes, resembles marble shot through with rich seams of soot. I liken my interest in these phenomena to the interest of desert-dwellers, arriving in
So there you have it. At the end of the day, you can sit in a cafe that looks like Catherine the Great's bedroom.
Everyone was laughing. And this was