Goodbye river
December 5, 2006, 10:09 am
Filed under: england, news, travel, weather

This morning was eerie.

I’m trying to get used to this humid but cold weather. It’s the worst of both worlds.

Calgary in Canada was freezing, but so dry that the second I left the cold I thawed out in a fiery flood of blood to the peripheries. There’s something satisfying about that kind of dry cold.

Here it’s cold – but damp. Some kind of orange mould grows on my cleanser bottle. I suppose I’m glad it’s not full of toxic chemicals, but it still seems like an oxymoron.

When I shower condensation in the bathroom battles with the frosty exterior, and water courses down the window panes like clear blood from a severed artery. Our toothbrushes and mouthwash on the windowsill live in an inescapable pool of runoff.

I appreciate Adelaide’s Mediterranean climate like never before.

This morning was humid and windy. So humid it seemed that I almost didn’t need my gloves and scarf over my coat, until a gust of wind and leaves hit me in the face, reminding me of the unpredictability of the weather here.

I cycled from my house to the bus stop along the River Cam, as usual. But today the river wasn’t clear and sparkling and there were no swans to greet me. The river was muddied and stagnant. I wondered if the gale winds the Met Office had been predicting had swept through overnight, dragging up sediment with it.

dsc00126.JPGReaching another part of the river I was stunned to see the punts grounded and abandoned, a few ducks puttering about in the mud, metres below the water line.

It occurred to me that perhaps this was normal – perhaps regularly in winter nasty weather comes along and decimates the River Cam. I’ve been lulled into a sense of familiarity with Cambridge over the last couple of months – perhaps there’s still much to learn.

Or perhaps with the changing climate it’s something long-time residents will have to confront as well.

Arriving at work, I asked if anyone knew what had happened to the River.

“Oh, some guys missing so they’re draining the river,” one of my colleagues said. I looked in the local paper and there was the story of the Jesus College graduate who went missing at 1am on Sunday morning, without a trace. His bike had been left locked up in town, his phone and wallet haven’t been used since then. Of course, he’s fallen in the river, so it’s being drained.

dsc00129forweb.JPGNever mind the ducks and swans, never mind the fish and other wildlife. A Cambridge graduate is missing!

“I hope it’s fixed by Saturday because I wanted to take my friend punting,” my colleague said.

In Australia getting more water in the river has become so critical it’s become political. Here a drunk lad falling in on Saturday night means the river must be dismantled.

It reminds me that in Europe people have been messing around with nature a lot longer than we have back home.


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