Sunday, 12 February 2012


Some more pics of the weird and wonderful frozen shoreline.

The number of people out there to see it this Sunday afternoon is testament to how rare an event it is (and, probably, to the fact that today it was only -10 ... Practically balmy!)

A middle-aged woman with fantastically misaligned, orange teeth, from whose kiosk I bought a slice of soggy, microwaved pizza (reminded me of West Bay ... aww!) told me in some detail, while waiting for the pizza to heat up, how she couldn't remember the weather ever being like this before. At least, that's my best guess at what she said. She chatted happily away, clearly unaware that her listener understood only about one word in ten. But I must've got the gist, because when I made my own, less-than-ten-words-at-a-time, weather-themed contributions to the conversation, she didn't look at me as if I was a crazy person talking unconnected nonsense. Result!

It was an afternoon of strange shapes ...


I've been wondering how these ice shapes came about. They rather look like the water froze just after waves had broken over these structures. Extraordinary.

Last night featured some strange shapes too. I went with some colleagues from work to a bar where a couple of live bands were playing. The support band were a bit Coldplay-ish, pretty good musicians actually. But they weren't local, and the level of audience support wasn't that high. The main band, on the other hand, were clearly local favourites, so got a much more enthusiastic reception from the crowd - even though they were rather less interesting. I've heard the kind of music they played (punky, music to pogo to) many times, starting in the mid-70s, and it all gets a bit same-y. The mainly youthful audience loved it, however, and pogo-ed away enthusiastically (God, do I sound old, or what?) But the atmosphere was good - apparently it's a very "in" place to go here - and the beer was good and very cheap. I bought three half-litres of an excellent light beer (they call it "white" here) for about £2.50. Entrance cost the same. Here's a rather uninformative photo, the only one I took:

Back to the shapes. One of the most surprising things that happened was that, during the gap between the two bands, the people who jumped up and started to dance to the DJ's music, were nearly all men. Something that doesn't happen very often in the UK. Time will tell if it's characteristic or not ... And they were "throwing" some very weird shapes while strutting their stuff.

That's it. Pretty feeble link, really. :))

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


I discovered a couple of days ago that the sea here is frozen over. The Black Sea - frozen. Not all of it, of course, but up to a considerable distance from the shoreline, half a mile, maybe more. Almost unheard of here, apparently, and something I've personally never seen before. Today was another clear, bright day, I had no teaching, so I decided to go and see ... frozen sea!

On the way there, a walk through Shevchenko Park in the lovely winter light:

With signs perhaps of the rapid departure of some of the people who would normally sleep rough there (most of the people who've died in Ukraine in this cold spell have been homeless):

And then, finally, to a frozen Black Sea:

In this particular spot, there was still some water not frozen solid:

 But elsewhere it was like this:

In one place, sheltered behind a wall, there was a small patch of completely unfrozen water

 which made a strange contrast with its surroundings:

In another place, a stream continued to run along a conduit

and kept the sea unfrozen where it ran into it

even though it itself was surrounded by ice

Oh, I forgot to mention that this was the coldest place I've ever been in my life! Not only was it cold enough anyway to freeze the sea, but there was also a strong wind blowing - it was like someone was trying to wrap every bit of my exposed skin in rough ice. After I'd been by the sea for the best part of an hour, I was very cold. I had, with difficulty, managed to operate the exposure and shutter controls on my camera with gloves on, but not to change lenses, so the gloves had had to come off (for the briefest time possible), twice, and my fingers were *burning*. And then, finally, the camera battery gave out. I don't mean it just ran out of charge, like batteries do, I mean it stopped working, because of the cold. It was time for me to stop too. A brisk 15-minute walk to the nearest cafe, a bowl of hot soup and some coffee, and I recovered. The battery hasn't.

Thursday, 2 February 2012


I thought today was a degree or so warmer, at least in the middle of the day (I didn't venture outdoors until lunchtime). But this evening a student on one of my courses told me that the temperature on her outdoor thermometer before she left for work this morning read -24.

I just need to give that a moment to sink in ...

-24 !!!!

My lips are practically frozen together just thinking about it. :||

Word is that the temperature will rise somewhat after the weekend, when it's rumored that it may go as high as 0 degrees. Blimey, practically time to get the swimming cozzy out! I also hear tell that the cold front is headed in a westerly direction - so if it reaches my dear friends in the UK, you will have my sympathy, but I'll be glad it's gone somewhere!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


I joked the other day about my fingers maybe getting frozen to the metal of my camera in this weather. Hahaha. Well, as it turned out ...

Today was probably the coldest yet, with the temperature around -18 (that's in the middle of the day, in full sunshine, you understand). It was also a brilliant, clear day, with all the streets and buildings looking fabulous in the beautiful winter light again. As I, thoroughly wrapped up, was walking briskly to meet a friend in a cafe, I saw a view of some bare trees and their shadows cast on a building, which I thought would make a nice shot. Should I stop and take it? Or should I just keep going and get out of this cold as soon as possible? My crossing the street momentarily delayed by traffic anyway, I decided to take the shot. I took my camera out of my pocket, then my glove off so as to press the little magic button ... FUUUUUUUUUCK! My fingers didn't actually stick to the camera, but they immediately hurt like hell, and continued to until I got inside the cafe and warmed up about fifteen or twenty minutes later ... Something else to be careful of in these new and unfamiliar circumstances I've chosen. I've *never* experienced this degree of cold before. I think it was about 10 below when I was in Moscow 6 or 7 years ago, and also in Japan back in 1985, but that's the coldest, until now.

Here's the shot, btw:

Was it worth the pain, I ask myself? I mean, it's OK. And I still think it's a good idea, but fully achieved? Nah! What do you think? (comments below, please)

There is, for a photographer, a painful irony in the fact that the light here on a day like today is just *exquisite* - I mean, even the north coast of Cornwall can't match the crystal-sharp luminescence of this light, imo - but it's just too bloody cold to engage in any meaningful way with the act of taking photographs! (It's almost too bloody cold to engage in any meaningful way with the act of just looking - or even being alive - tbh.) But maybe I'll find a way - and one which doesn't require the sacrifice of any precious, and much-loved, digits!

Somewhat later, I saw this shapka (fur hat) abandoned by the side of the path:

How could *anyone* not notice they didn't have it? (And, in case you were wondering, no I didn't have painful fingers for a quarter of an hour after taking this photo - this time I left my glove on. Hah! Lesson learned. Far from a resolution of the frustrating situation previously described, nevertheless a step in the right direction ... )