So here we are, fast approaching February, fresh from the trials and tribulations of celebrating two Christmases and two New Years. Before going any further, I should explain. I celebrated the traditional western Christmas of over indulgence and cringe inducing adverts that start in August. Here they celebrate the Russian Orthodox Christmas, which happens on the 7th of January and seems to have introduced religion to the equation.
Christmas Lights on Prymorski Boulevard
It was certainly odd thing going out the day after New Year and seeing people buying Christmas trees but that’s another story. The New Year I am referring to is the new New Year, i.e. the one traditionally celebrated in major cities worldwide, by pumping obscenely large amounts of fireworks into the sky whilst spreading obscenely large amounts of vomit over public pavements. Here we celebrated with the mother in law and a bottle of Ukrainian Champagne, Chateaux Chernobyl, which oddly despite being the freezer for three weeks was still warm when poured.
Anyway as usual my mind is wandering, so back on subject; here we also have a second New Year, old New Year. Now if you aren’t entirely confused, old New Year is another religious festival, celebrating the baptism of the baby Jesus. Honestly as an agnostic, seeing all the partying going on I was wondering whether there maybe was a God after all.
The point is that we are now officially in the bleak mid winter, my first in Ukraine and guess what, it’s not bleak. Now I know as I write this these are probably famous (hopefully not) last words, but so far the winter has been benign and forgiving. One of my reasons for leaving the UK and returning to sea in 2005 was the British winter. In January 2005, I had just returned from a photographic shoot in Havana and the very next day, I remember sitting in a car on London’s North Circular on the way to shoot a property. I had not moved for about 40 minutes. The rain was not beating down on the roof; it was driving past the windows horizontally on the cold breath of a howling gale. The gently glowing dashboard of my car indicated it was 2 degrees but outside it felt more like the end of days. At this point, I said fuck it I cannot do this anymore and started on the odd and meandering path that has led to my first Ukrainian winter. Now I am sure many of you know that Ukrainian winters can be harsh. Hell if they stopped the Third Reich they can certainly put a crimp in the day of middle aged expat. But you see, here in Odessa we have a certain something that helps us. The Gulf of Odessa. The relatively warm waters of Gulf moderate the harshness of the Ukrainian winter and although it does snow here and can get cold it’s does not have the cruel bitterness that the rest of the country suffers. Nor does it have the rampaging Atlantic storms that wreak havoc and bring misery and darkness to the Sceptered Isle.
So overall and so far it’s manageable. A few days of rain, some snow, a little above freezing, a little below freezing but very little strong wind. In fact so little wind that as I look out of the window of our flat, the trees in the yard still cling desperately to their remaining leaves, and its nearly February. That said, I am still looking forward to spring in this beautiful and endlessly engaging city.