Perils of the Thaw

If you can plunge upwards, that’s what the temperature has done. I step out into Pühavaimu Street this morning to find meltwater spattering from all the eaves. Underfoot, the surface snow has washed off; water spreads across the hard-packed under-ice, and freezes. Gravity has been abolished — or, no, gravity’s alive and well, but friction is having the day off, even for the Tallinn-streetwise, and I’m learning the Estonian for Oops and Ouch and probably other interjections that I can’t identify. No one chats much as they’re walking. Everyone is like a first-time skater, with eyes on their feet.
… That, and occasional canny glances upwards. That warning about falling icicles that I was given days ago. Back then, I though it quaint. I get the point now… or rather the half-tone jagged-edged slab. The steep pitched roofs of the Old Town, with its medieval streets, are loosing their hold on weeks of snow, compacted and refrozen. They’ve been overhanging inch by inch, like guillotine-edged glaciers. Here and there is a metre-deep shattered pile of one, on the narrow pavement. So we have a choice — the pavement, or the glassy undulations of the middle of the street…
Then again I hardly need to tell anyone who saw the Cold War, from this side especially, or indeed the end of any rigid regime, about the unpredictable risks of a thaw.

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