(james benedict brown) on the road

Crunching snow underfoot

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 30 December, 2006

We are about to celebrate the arrival of 2007, and I am back where I celebrated the arrival of 2006, in Montréal, where the temperatures are below zero and the snow is falling softly.

I don’t normally like to revisit places that I have travelled to before. After all, it’s largely a waste of money and resources that could be spent travelling to a new place that I haven’t seen before. But with Montréal I am prepared to make an exception. Seconds after a near perfect landing at Trudeau Airport on Thursday evening, I felt strangely ‘at home’. When I left the city (last September) after a year of working and living in this enigmatic and frequently infuriating place, I felt sad but content to be closing a chapter on my life. It is very strange to return here, to a place that I know so well, so quickly after a grand and ‘final’ departure.

Everything is deeply familiar – so deep that as I spent this morning reading and preparing for an essay in the Bibliotèque Nationale, the subconscious sound of the elevator chime and the familiar sight of snow falling on the bus station across the street began to alight strangely embedded memories. I have been here before, and not only do I remember and know it, I am re-living it in a strange hyper-reality. Like a dream, I am floating through something very real, yet very surreal.

Snow has a wonderful effect on the city. On our first day here, I retraced many remembered paths and walked for many kilometers with a friend who is new to the city. The sky was clear and the temperature was perfect for pacing the city streets – at least minus twelve at midday. Today, we woke to gentle snow fall, which continued as I left the apartment to walk to the library. The city of Montréal is very quiet in its centre: even if it were not Saturday, most offices and businesses are closed for a merged Christmas and New Year vacation. The residential streets of the Plateau are especially tranquil: and the fresh snow was serving a considerate civic purpose, softening the sounds of car tyres as people drove through the city streets. The snow was falling at the perfect volume and temperature to remain soft and nearly fluffy on the icy pavements. Whereas yesterday we waddled like penguins over the remaining treacherous patches of ice, today I was able to walk confidently on soft, crunching snow.

From snowy Montréal, to wherever you may be, I send you my best wishes for 2007. I promise to snap out of my Canadaphilia soon, and I’ll be back in Sheffield in two weeks time.

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