September 0003

 


 

London Snow. Ms. Pimbleman Gets Mail!

LONDON IN THE WINTER

Most tourists visit London in June and July. Consequently few of them realize just how cold it gets in February Every year, life grinds to a halt as the snow piles up in drifts of up to three metres, and, in most years, the Thames freezes solid. The ice on the river is so deep it is quite safe to drive a fully loaded articulated lorry on it, and a popular ceremony has recently developed. On the first Saturday of the month all the major hauliers take part in the race from Barnes Bridge to Tilbury. Last year, the French company Norbert Dentresangle won for the second time running, having entered a big Volvo loaded with sheep carcasses, which was later driven across the English Channel via the Dogger Bank to Belgium, and on to Afghanistan, where they were sold and put into freezers in readiness for the Eid celebrations. Team Dentressangle only needs to win once more to become permanent holders of the Ken Livingstone Cup, which is named after London’s Lord Mayor, who instituted it.

Beautiful as it is, the snowy season brings certain dangers with it. Polar Bears frequently appear in the city, some having floated down early in the year on icebergs, others having trekked from Spitzbergen down the North Sea. They seem to be attracted by the enormous quantities of rubbish produced by this large city, much of which is edible. There are occasional catastrophes. Last winter Osric Sefton, a Junior Minister in the Ministry of the Interior, was attacked and eaten by a Polar Bear in a narrow courtyard just off Whitehall.

For most Londoners, the highlight of the month is the arrival of the Eskimos. Every year warmly dressed crowds gather, binoculars at the ready, on the foreshore at Clacton and Maldon in an effort to be the first to see the kayaks arriving. There is usually a fleet of about 500 of them, ranging in size from one man craft, to quite large vessels capable of carrying an entire family and a prefabricated igloo. They have not had an easy passage, for most of the ocean is frozen solid, and it can be difficult to pick a safe path between the ice floes. When they are sighted the traditional smoke signal is made to tell the city that it is time to begin preparations. The snow in their traditional camping ground at Millbank is swept so it is clean and smooth, and traffic is rerouted so they can build their settlement undisturbed.

When they have erected their igloos, the Eskimos busy themselves cutting holes in the ice on the river, through which they catch seals and fish, mostly salmon and arctic wrasse. Some of these are eaten by the Eskimos, and the sealskins are turned into parkas. The rest are sold at the well-attended ice barbeque which is held on the river towards the end of the month. The Eskimos also run craft stalls, at which they sell arctic clothing, and made of walrus ivory. The annual walrus hunt is also a very popular event. For this the Eskimos abandon their kayaks, and chase their prey on little ponies which they hire from the Welsh pastoralists who live in the Black Hills and Brecon Beacons. The hunters are very conscientious in observing the United Nations Quota for the Taking of Southern Walruses by Indigenous Peoples.

They stay until the first blue sky, which usually occurs about the third of March, and enormous crowds gather on the embankment to wish them farewell and a safe voyage, and a speedy return next year.

If you want to see the Eskimos in London or the Truck Race on the Ice, VisitLondon.com has all the information and contacts you need on their website.

 

AN EARLY REPLY TO MS. PIMBLEMAN, AND SOME ENSUING CORRESPONDENCE:

Alphonsine, I’ve solved your code, and would love to spring into action, but need to see a photograph of you first. Please get a commissioner of oaths or whatever you call it over there to attest it is genuine, recent, and not misleading. Also, how tall are you, what do you weigh, and can you cook?

Rex Gorman, ex SAS, Stockport, UK

 Gnv bzm H rdmc xnt z sgnsn? Okdzrd gdko ld!

Alphonsine

OK, I’ll think about it. Where are you?

Rex.

Okdzrd. The North Tower, Krak des Scharfs, Isle des Phantasmes, Haiti. Kzrs mhfgs vzr sgd vnqrs xds! I’m behind the fifteenth window up, overlooking the sea. The view is lovely. Xntq ptdrshnmr zmrvdqde: H oqnlhrd xnt H knnj fqdzs! Ehud dhfgs, kdrr mnv. Xdr! Xnt khjd Bqdnkd?

Alphonsine

Bqdnkd? You bet! I’m coming! You can’t get any decent bqdnkd in Stockport!

Please forgiv late repli. My Inglish not so good. So decodifing you letter not easy. But I ex-Spesnatz, much toufer to SAS! Me come solv to your problem!

Oleg Petrovsky, St. Peterburg (Hah! Sankt Peterburg make Stockport look really silly!)

Okdzrd gdko ld snn!

Alphonsine

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