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January 25, 2012, Wednesday

The cold, cold winter

Last Saturday we went to bed in Technicolor and woke up again in two-tone, the world beyond the curtains having been rendered a matt beige and white while we slept as if the Grand Designer had shaken his head in disgust at the fashion for vibrant color and ruled instead that this season’s new look should be back-to-basics magnolia.

Oh wow, how beautiful, was my first thought. Oh no, the pipes was my second, followed in short order by, oh no, the pavements.

Actually, we still had a few days of leeway before the temperature suddenly plummeted and there we were shivering in minus 18 degrees at mid-day. This came as a nasty shock after last year’s non-existent winter and the very mild one of the year before. With an effort I dragged my memory back to the year before that though and, yes, this is what a real Cappadocian winter tends to be like -- cold, hard and very, very treacherous.

Of course the worst sufferers have been the non-humans, left outside to fend for themselves in the ice. In despair I’ve watched the pair of back redstarts who nest in the fairy chimney on the next-door property dropping down into my courtyard in search of food. Much as I long to rush out and help them with fatballs, pumpkin seeds, even bread, to do so would be to risk their sudden death between the jaws of one of my cats, so I can only wring my hands and pray for a life-saving thaw.

Then there are the street dogs. Opening my bedroom door I was astonished to see a German shepherd-cross in my courtyard. No way could that dog have forced his way through the catflap. On the other hand the gap where next-door’s gate doesn’t quite hang properly must have made for easy pickings. He was still there when I came back from dinner in Ortahisar. Again, I longed to rush out with a warm meal, although common sense warned that to do so would be to make him “mine” for life.

Then as I teetered across the ice to the Kelebek Hotel a dog came rushing towards me. In her wake sailed four of the most adorable brown puppies imaginable, barely able to contain their wobbly bottoms, all of them desperate to be friends. Beside them the new municipal bins boasted tight-fitting, hygienic lids. Most of the restaurants have closed until Easter. How, I wondered, were they to find enough food to keep body and soul together?

At least my cats seemed fine, tucked up indoors with thick winter coats to keep them warm even after a drop in the water pressure defeated my radiators. But then a friend in İstanbul had only just reported the sad demise of her own cat than I came home from Nevşehir and found a 5-month-old kitten lying half under my kitchen table at an angle that suggested all was not well. Coming closer, I realized that it was dead although its body was still warm, suggesting a very recent end. As I wrapped it up and carried it out to the bin I saw the redstarts flittering hopefully from twig to twig. The Cappadocian winter is certainly lovely, but its beauty sometimes extracts a cruel price.

Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.

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