It all started 11 days ago. The local papers headline read A Siberian Cold Grips France.
That was a Thursday. There were a few murmurs in the local grocery that we were in for a ‘big’ one.
Then Friday more headlines of ‘polar’ temperatures. Incredible, unbelievable, unimaginable--it was so cold the unions cancelled strikes in Paris!
Sunday we awoke to a beautiful covering of snow on the ground. The early morning was greeted by the screams of children sledding down the main street. Parents helped the children build snow creatures in the otherwise empty Sunday market space. My neighbors were keen to see what kind of gear hardy Vermonters were sporting.
One Sunday headline was how for this first time most vendors at Saturdays market had to hang plastic around their stalls to keep their vegetables and cheeses from freezing, but also commenting that it wasn’t their habit to hide themselves. The recurring theme to all stories was the extreme cold. By now most of France was on vigilance orange.
This same day there was a blurb on Grounds Hog day - someone had the audacity to question “why there wasn’t some American that would just go ahead and shoot this repugnant varmint” -I’m not kidding this is verbatim what was in the paper!
Sunday night we walked home from a friend’s house in absolute silence. And that silence lasted well into the week. With temperatures never rising above freezing and nights in the teens the entire south west of France was shut down. No more newspaper headlines --- there was no paper delivery. The village was snow bound.
Headlines were now quotes overheard at the village grocery store. (The owner lives above the shop. She and our local bakery never miss a scoop on the local beat.) Most of the news reports were about heating system casualties and frozen water pipes. There was, of course, no shortage of advice on what to do in either crisis. There was much concern about which neighbors had been checked in on, making sure to go through the list dozens of times to make sure no one was overlooked.
At some point someone pointed out to the grocer that this gripping cold made it impossible to harvest leeks or carrots from the frozen ground - there might be a run on them and she better raise the price. Looking at the leeks in my basket I wondered if she would charge me the price that they were when I put them in the basket or the price they were when I went to check out.
Walking in the glorious sunshine Monday and Tuesday we would pass lots of young people enjoying the days off from work and the freedom of the empty streets. Big winter hats and mittens had finally been dug out of the backs of closets. Wednesday they announced that schools would stay closed for the rest of the week. By Friday it was just the hardened Vermonters that were out and one car that stopped to chat with us, a local farmer with the headline news that one of his cows had died. No one was able to get to his farm to take it away, but no problem it wasn’t going to thaw out any time soon.
Now it is Sunday again and the main routes have been cleared. The back roads are still covered in white snow. There is no salt or sand to spoil the purity of white.
A lot of people still have not left their homes. But finally the newspaper is back to being delivered to the local shop.
***Weekly markets all closed - even the truffle market!***
***20% of the mail has not been delivered - “We can not put in danger the postal workers.”*** (In our village the post office was closed for the entire week.)
***Finally the winter clothing is flying off the shelves - and customers are asking for things like boot grips and sleds and chapstick.***