05 January 2021

Saying goodbye to 2020

When my sister and I didn't get around to playing post-dinner game on Boxing Day, we decided to do it some other time over the Christmas holidays. And then I thought of New Year's Eve! And she was available. That was cool! New Year's Eve sorted. But I also wanted to do something during the day. And we had had a lot of snow on the hills. The weather hadn't been particularly good for going into it, but at some point you just need the make the most of it, whatever the weather. So I had decided that the 31st was going to be the day I would venture out. So I packed my bag full of hot flasks and set off. To be on the safe side, I had both my crampons and my snowshoes with me. I had to go alone due to covid restrictions, and one has to be careful. And it would be cool to use the snowshoes; they have been semi-retired for years. I did make sure to have extra straps with me! Materials can get brittle over the years.

I had chosen a rather smooth valley, where the clear path soon vanishes, and you're then left to pick your way through a rather swampy valley with lumpy grass. That is exactly the sort of terrain that is easier to negotiate if you can just stomp over the top of all of that, buoyed by snow.

I decided to do the first bit on bicycle; the advantage of that is that as soon as you are back in the village you can just zip home on your bike. Even within the village we have nice public footpaths, but still, it's not the best part of the route. But when I got to some 200 m above sea level, the road got so icy I had to park up. Oh well! That was about where I wanted to park anyway. I somehow managed to negotiate the last few hundred metres of asphalt and then I was out of town.

The first thing I came across, was lots of families with small children having fun sledging. That was so cool to see! But I moved on. And later I bumped into a family I knew. They had the exact same plan! We chatted a bit, and then we each went our way. I could hear their sledging squeals for quite a while!

Soon I put my snowshoes on. The snow was soft and slushy here; would snowshoes help? The answer was no. Slush doesn't provide enough buoyancy. So I took them off again. I had noticed one strap indeed needed replacing.

Where the clear path ends I put them back on. Here they came into their own! I could just walk straight ahead without minding too much where I put my feet. In the meantime, visibility wasn't good. I knew that was going to happen, of course, but it was a bit of a pity. I decided to not make it a long walk. When it started snowing I decided to head uphill and then walk back that way. And visibility was so bad at some point I stepped into a gully I hadn't seen, even though it clearly was right in front of me. That's what you get in a white-out!

I kept climbing until I reached the leat, and then walked back. When I passed a nice rock I sat down for lunch. While I was eating, the world seem to re-emerge from the whiteness! That was nice. I walked back in much better weather. But when I got home, things got bad again and we had some more sleet.

view close to the village

a rare beam of sunshine

a rare view!

the view is starting to vanish

this is when it came back

After dinner I video-called my sister. I had got the game ready! We would play Gruble. It's probably called something else in this country, but I have the Norwegian version. And my sister has the Finnish one! The idea is it gives you a category and a letter, and you have to think of as many words as possible in that category starting with that letter. And then you get to argue about which words are actually valid. It's loads of fun! And we play with liberal rules; any language goes. I trust her on the Finnish and she trusts me on the Welsh. That does mean, though, that certain letters give one of us an advantage; for instance, Finnish doesn't really do G or B, while Welsh doesn't do K or V. Hopefully, it all averages out!

I noticed I was using English and Dutch in about equal measure; I only used Welsh for body parts, insults and weather features. And a TV programme. My weather features, by the way, featured four terms for heavy rain, and one for thick fog! One wonders where I have lived my entire life. And I barely used Norwegian. But then again, I normally don't.

Sometimes the most fun we have is when we reject terms. My sister didn't accept "weak coffee" as office accoutrements!

I also learned that the Finns have a word for an unspecified place! That is so useful. I think I'll steal that, even though it will only be my sister who will understand what I am talking about when I am using it. But that's okay!

We stopped when it was about 10:30 where she was. It had been a good evening! And when I would wake up the next morning, 2020 would be over…

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