Friday, 24 October 2014

Midsummer, midwinter - but... midautumn?

After 56 full years of rotating about the sun - it hit me. In English we have the concept of midsummer and its antonym midwinter - neither of which actually refer to the middle of the season in question - but (and in particular midsummer) to its astronomical beginning. We do not, however, have the concept of midspring or midautumn. As I write those words, Google's helpful spellcheck underlines both of them with a red wężyk ('little snake'), as they do not exist in unhyphenated form (below).

Today was the day that marked the division between Poland's famous 'golden autumn' with warm, sunny days, and the run-up to winter proper. This morning, the temperature in Warsaw went into negative territory, -2C, although the perceivable temperature (taking wind and humidity into account) fell to -5C. Hardly a crushing frost, but a signal that change is on its way. The Financial Times's new Warsaw correspondent, Henry Foy, even went so far as to tweet -2C as being something extraordinarily tweetable (living proof that polar bears stalk the streets here). However, typing in 'first frost' into the search box on this blog (top right) reveals earlier ones than 24 October. However, -2C is 20 degrees colder than it was on Monday afternoon - a major thermal transition.

Fellow Warsaw blogger Scatts once wrote that this city has two seasons, the green one and the grey one. I posit that Poland has six; white winter, pre-spring, proper spring, humid summer, golden autumn and chilly, drear, grey autumn. Whichever view you take the seasons are changing - either from green to grey, or from golden to dreary.

Out come the winter clothes - woolly hats, scarves, thick gloves, warm coat - stuff that weighs heavy on the shoulders but heavier come April when the snows subside (looking back at my blog for 2013, the last snow cleared on 7 April). That's all of November, December, January, February and March, plus the bulk of April before it gets properly warm again - and even early May can be snowy.

The clocks go backward in the wee small hours of Sunday morning, so Warsaw will be leaving work in darkness until the last weekend of March. The encroaching darkness brings about seasonal affective disorder (appropriately acronymed SAD). Today in Warsaw we had just over ten hours of daylight. In 58 days time, on Midwinter's Day, winter solstice, 22 December, we'll have a little over seven and half hours of daylight.

Today, the sun set at 17:23. By Monday, because of the change from summer daylight saving time, the sun will set at 16:17. Losing an hour and six minutes of daylight at the end of the working day is a terrible blow to one's samopoczucie (no good English translation exists for this useful Polish term).

And arriving at the station today, all the trains were massively delayed - some by up to 90 minutes, mine by a mere 45 minutes, because of an earlier broken-down train at W-wa Śródmieście. I thought this was that typical phenomenon - change of season and the entire rail network collapses - but no, this was a one off, not a 'sorry, taki mamy klimat' moment.

Still, the sun shone, it was a lovely day. Make the most of every minute of sunshine, it is a rapidly disappearing commodity. We shall cherish those fine days when spring makes its welcome return. It's a long-held dream of mine to be able to jet off to the southern hemisphere (New Zealand, Chile) and stay there until spring returns to Warsaw...

This time last year:
Symphony in Socialist-Realism

This time last year:
Glasgow snapshots

This time two years ago:
A slow farewell to our Powiśle office

This time three years ago:
A slow farewell to my Nissan Micra

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