In Germany, we are an orderly lot. Society is predicated on a number of rules, and if every one obeys those rules, then life is good. Some of the unwritten rules of society are: lace curtains good, no curtains bad; clad feet good, bare feet dangerous; hot lunch good, salad inadequate. Then there are the written rules – which days which bins get collected, no lawn-mowing or car-washing on Sundays (to ensure a day of rest), no pruning after March (to protect nesting birds) and a legion of others. I am constantly discovering new rules – for example, I recently discovered all Germans have to carry their ID cards, and foreigners like me who have no such thing, should always carry their passports on them. I have been flouting this rule for 11 years and I didn’t even know it. Most of the time I don’t know where my passport is. I suspect it is buried under that pile of papers in the corner of the kitchen, but I can’t be sure.
One thing that German society cannot order with rules is the weather. But we like to try! This weekend we gave the weather a Very Strong Message. Every year, on the Sunday before the Spring Equinox, towns in this area (and perhaps all over Germany, I’m not sure) participate in a Sommertagszug – a procession through town to celebrate the end of winter and encourage the onset of spring. Kindergarten and schoolchildren dress up in spring-themed outfits and walk through town accompanied by marching bands, floats decorated with flowers and smart policepeople on horses. In our family we had two participants in the procession – a frog and a ladybird. Like the loyal parents we are, we thronged the pavements to wave and and yell encouragement at our offspring (“Yay, frog!” “Go, ladybird!”). Imagine us when they start playing football.
Despite a clear message from our town, that the 80 frogs, 100 ladybirds, dozens of garden gnomes, buzzing bees, and small people under flower-bedecked parasols could do with some decent weather, it poured. Like every Sommertagszug I’ve ever had the joy to be involved with, the weather was shite – dripping, bone-achingly cold and miserable.
Then the procession moved to the river meadow, where we proceeded to give the weather an even stronger message.
First, take one jolly snowman:
And then burn him on a pyre:
Well, you would have thought, wouldn’t you? You would have thought that this would be a crystal clear signal: Weather, Behave! Or Else.
No, actually. Today, on the Spring Equinox, we had sun, followed by ice rain, followed by a random rumble of thunder, followed by sun, followed by snow. It was freezing. We expect to be walking to school in our snow boots tomorrow. Spring is not behaving. We shall have to think up further punishments.