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Weather Perspective

Like many of my fellow Newfoundlanders, I’m often fixated on the weather. I pay close attention to the long-range forecasts, even though I know they’re going to change. I consider conversations about the weather to be deeply interesting, not awkward small talk (sidebar: this might be why I’m single). To me, the forecasters at Canada’s Weather Network are akin to the Olympian Gods of Ancient Greece –– headed by mighty Zeus himself.

I’ve always been bad this way, but lately it’s gotten worse, because CTV Kitchener –– our local station, with an excellent newsroom –– started bringing veterans across from Mount Olympus to anchor the weather. This means we have a legitimate Homeric hero –– let’s call her Pallas Athena –– right here in town, calling the LOCAL weather. As the kids say: OMG!!!!

If you don’t understand how amazing this is, I feel sad for you (and perhaps, you should feel really sad for me).

With my increased weather fixation, though, has come increased complaining about conditions. Usually I save this for the summer –– it’s been well-established that I prefer to be cold –– but the past two weeks of ‘spring’ in southern Ontario have included a mix of whiteout snow-squalls, downpours, thunderstorms, and hail. Not even my general gloom is immune to such conditions; I long for sunnier days, and (slightly) warmer temperatures… if only so I can gripe about the weather being too nice.

That in mind, I’ve been bellyaching –– even going so far as to blame Pallas Athena (or, more properly, CTV Kitchener’s weather anchor Lyndsay Morrison) on Twitter. It’s all in good fun, but yesterday I was reminded that I really ought to give it a rest. See, by no means are we dealing with the worst April weather ever. Some 96 years ago, 100,000 Canadians were stuck outside for four days, dealing with freezing temperatures, sleet, blowing snow…

…and vicious artillery and machine gun fire.

From the 9th to the 12th of April, 1917, the four divisions of our own Canadian Corps were storming up Vimy Ridge. The sleet and snow was actually helping them –– blowing into the faces of the Germans they were attacking –– but that was just one small mercy as they fought the bitter cold, and their adversaries, to take control of the ridge. Of course they were successful, and as a result the battle (fought in support of a much larger British offensive in Arras, which failed) came to define Canadian understanding of the First World War.

So what did you do on your snow day?
Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-001353

Those familiar with the historical notes from The Empire will know I’m not wild about the way popular memory has emphasized Vimy as a nation-building exercise… but failed to remember the many other Canadian sacrifices of the Great War. Our Corps contributed far more to victory –– and peace –– than simply taking one ridge, but we rarely remember Amiens, the Drocout-Queant Line, Canal du Nord, Cambrai, or Mons. Still, no matter its relative impact, this week marks Vimy’s 96th anniversary, and I think it rather important to remember the more than 3,500 men who perished in the attack, as well as the more than 10,000 who were wounded.

So yes, the weather this ‘spring’ is not exactly great, but let’s put it into perspective: unless the forecast calls for snow, sleet, and a ground-shattering artillery barrage, we’re enjoying better conditions than those young men who were struggling to survive in the mud of France, hoping that their war would be the one to end all others.

Looks like I’m going to have to quit complaining.