IF we thought the bells on New Year’s Eve marked the end of our troubles, a historic snowfall in and around Madrid prompted a rethink.
At 2.37am on Saturday, the lights literally went out in swathes of Madrid’s commuter belt and we woke up to a chill house, the heating off and kettles cold.
Things were looking decidedly bleak at around 1 pm with a blizzard outside, 40 cm of snow piling up around the house, the temperature within plummeting to 14ºC, cold soup on the menu and no sign of Iberdrola.
With the promise of dry logs from a neighbour, we set off with our sledge into the town of Alpedrete that had been converted into a winter wonderland. In the shadow of the notorious Valley of the Fallen, locals had got out their sledges, snowshoes and cross-country skis and reclaimed the roads that were thick with snow, belting at top speed past Bankia.
A 60-year-old member of the town’s servicios municipales told me he hadn’t seen anything like it since he was six. “There’s not enough salt,” shouted one of his colleagues on Sunday morning as people picked their way gingerly along the pavements towards the supermarket – a queue had formed; the owners stranded. “People will have to be patient,” he said.
Returning home with a sleighful of wood, we lit candles and huddled around the fire, feeling almost disappointed when the lights finally flicked back on at 9 pm.
Like COVID, the icy conditions have been testing but, unlike the virus, have brought people together. Neighbors who never usually acknowledge my presence were exchanging hellos and chuckling over the snowballs that had gathered around our dog’s actual balls and, for those determined to get their vehicles on the move on Sunday morning, there was no shortage of volunteers to help push them out of snow banks.
While COVID has tended to make people eye each other with mistrust, the Siberian weather conditions have prompted solidarity. As the song goes, Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!