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Dini

Welcome at the blog of Dini Commandeur. I've written quite a lot of columns for various magazines. I also write short stories every now and then. These columns and stories are available for everybody at this blog. I'll release new columns and stories periodically.

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« No one can reassure t… | Home | The cradle »

Code Red

Friday 8th January 2016 Sunday 07 February 2016 Suddenly  winter set in. In the North code Red was declared by the KNMI (Dutch national weather forecasting service). It was slippery as ice on the roads.

In our street, usually very active, it was quiet. Now and then someone slid carefully over the pavement. And if nevertheless  a car drove by, we held our breath. Would that work out right? The turn on the corner of our street is infamous when slippery. The news paper, despite code Red delivered each day and on time, was full with articles about the winter discomforts. Cars in a slip, milk flushed away, a fire-watcher who drove a nurse to new born babies for a neonatal heel prick. Schools closed. Hospitals working overtime because of the many bone fractures. Neighborhood care couldn’t visit every patient, fodder-trucks didn’t ride. People were worried about that. This cannot take too long, because when the farmers run out of supplies, their animals don’t have anything to eat. On television we saw how the trucks which set off, lay on their side. And we saw empty bus stations, trains that rode at night on and off to keep the overhead wires free from glazed frost. A precise job, an engine driver explained, because there was always a chance the overhead wires would break. But there was also ice-fun. We saw skaters on the roads and in the streets. Also on Facebook picture after picture appeared with skating northerners. And in the mean time hungry birds fluttered around our house consuming the scattered crumbs in a blink of an eye. A blackbird tucked into corn from spilled straw. The drinking water from Saar and Riek, the hens, froze up at every moment and we replaced it regularly. I put extra straw in their sleeping pen, but at night for some reason Saar kept sleeping outside. She seemed to appreciate the cold. We did not. We stayed inside, with a fulfilled store cupboard.

So much different it was in the past. When my mother struggled kindling the coal-fired heater early in the morning at cold winter days. The tap in the kitchen was often frozen and there were frost flowers at the windows in the bedrooms. With our breath we let the ice melt a little, so we could look outside. Those  were the winters with intense cold and chilblained toes. During the week only the kitchen was heated, in the weekend the living-room was too. And each night we got a hot pitcher into our beds.

Later there were even more cold winters. Especially the winter of 1978/79 we remember clearly. The extreme weather back then would definitely qualify as code Red nowadays. Villages cut off, farms snowed under. Even in our street, people were snowed up. Their neighbors shoveled the snow away and cleared the front doors from snow. And it was ever so cold. The strong wind blew from the east and drove the snow inside as soon as the front door opened. Back then we didn’t have central heating and when we went to bed at night the water-supply had to be shut down, because freezing up is always on the lookout.

But now, despite code Red, we didn’t have to shut down the water. We definitely were not  cold and we didn’t have to go shopping. The only thing that annoyed us a little was the fact that we couldn’t go outside for a breath of fresh air. Fortunately this situation lasted only a couple of days. Then code Red was off and live went on like before.

Translated from Dutch by Astrid Kostelijk and Piet Commandeur


 

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