With this weekend came the official start of winter. But we all know it comes much earlier than that. Here in New York I usually mark it by the appearance of the first Christmas decorations in the shops, earlyish in November. Alternatively, I lament the opening of the city’s outdoor skating rinks – in October.
They, by the way, seem to be multiplying. This year, I can count seven up and running in Manhattan alone, including the most famous one at Rockefeller Plaza – a Christmas card staple – two in Central Park and another pop-up affair in Bryant Park behind the Public Library.
What better way to get into the holiday spirit than to grab the bobble hat and take to the ice? Red noses, breathe billowing in clouds, children crying from numb fingers. But in New York yesterday a vital part of that festive picture was missing.
The weather has confusingly turned Caribbean balmy. My nearest rink is for residents of Stuyvesant Town, a post-War cluster of brick apartment blocks on the east side of Manhattan. As the temperature reached 19 degrees centigrade at noon, patrons in T-shirts and shorts were slithering about in large puddles of milky water.
For rink operators struggling to keep their ice from disappearing entirely it’s a refrigeration nightmare. And pity the ski resorts in the eastern US where the heavy snows of early December are melting away under Nature’s unexpected hairdryer.
But wait, I did say balmy? I meant barmy. The forecast high for Christmas Day? Minus one.