Saturday, 26 September 2020

Friday September 25th; Clear Skies, Cold Wind and the Onset of Winter

The last month has been full of autumn colours. The mountains were speckled with reds and pinks as the berry plants shed their fruit, turning the fellsides crimson as if bathed in the light of the setting sun. In the city, the leaves turn yellow and brown and gold, and to open the front door is to risk admitting a gust of wind and a flurry of leaves


Autumnal Bláberjalyng (Bilberry)
Near Landmannalaugar in Friðland að Fjallabaki

The air has been clear, the sun bright, but the wind bitterly cold, descending straight out of the north and over the mountain, frosting windscreens and chilling bones. This northerly wind bears winter on its back, ushering in snow on the mountain tops and heralding the end of autumn, though the leaves have not yet finished falling. 

With northerly winds come clear skies, low temperatures and the season's first frosts. This combination is peculiar; the blue skies and sun lure you outside, but in reality it's so cold you wish yourself back in the comfort of home the second you leave the house. These conditions even have their own name in Icelandic, gluggaveður, or window weather. It looks clear and bright outside, but really it's best viewed from the window. 

These conditions, while not ideal for walking, are perfect for sitting in the pool, and for the first time this side of summer, I could sit in the 40° pool for a whole hour without overheating. I had to run from the changing rooms to the hotpot, but once in the water I sank to my neck and really luxuriated, breathing the cool breeze and basking in the low evening sun. It's fascinating how much the pool experience varies from one week to the next, depending on the air temperature, and of course the wind, the rain, the hail and the snow. It was only last week I had to to duck beneath the water to avoid the descending hail stones, though bizarrely the air temperature was warmer and I was forced into the cooler and shallower pool before long. 

Despite the reds and golds, autumn, which in most countries lasts a couple of months at least, seems to have bypassed us this year and we've gone straight from summer to winter. Sunglasses are replaced by hats and gloves and dripping noses; and as tyres are switched from summer to winter, the streets resound with the sound of thousands of small metal studs rolling on tarmac. Summer coats are pushed to the backs of wardrobes and out come winter parkas, with big fluffy hoods and inches of insulating layers. Gone are the months of activity and light; sunset arrives earlier with each passing day and the time for keeping warm has come.

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