Groundhog Day

One of the Christmas treats that mum and dad sent us was a box of Billy Tea bags, which we were able to serve and talk about at our Aussie Day party last week. The story on the side of the box also provided the source for my quiz question.

I quote: During the historic gold rush days imported French tinned beef was a staple food item. The ‘diggers’ mispronouncing the French word “Boeuf” (Beef) simplified it to “Bully” then “Billy”. A wire handle was attached to the empty beef tin to boil water for tea – hence “Billy Tea”.
So there you go! All I can say is, they must have had very poor diction. Congratulations to Bernie Cronk and Dad who both read from the same tea box.

Now I must tell you about an incident that happened last week. Philip sent me an email with some photos of decorating and gardening projects he and Colleen have been working on at their beautiful home in Canberra. I enjoyed the letter very much and delighted in the photos and dreamed of times (not too far away) when Peter and I could start working on similar projects. However, the next time I turned my computer on, the same message re-appeared, and the next time! As I assured Philip, I did enjoy the message each time but started to fear I was somehow trapped in Bill Murray’s body and I was caught in the time loop he endured (over and over again) on Groundhog Day. I did a bit of investigating and found that the big day was in fact Saturday and the famous Punxsutawney rodent is named Phil!! Spookier and spookier!

I wasn’t quite sure where Punxsutawney was, but predicting weather using a groundhog sounded as though it could very easily be a mid-western tradition, and I hoped that it might be close enough that we would be able to make our weekend jaunt there to see the meteorological marvel at work. However, I was sad to learn that Punxsutawney is in Pennsylvania (try saying that quickly five times!) and was far too distant for a quick trip.
Now, I seem to have been cold for a very long time – arriving from winter in Australia to catch the last bits of summer here only to head straight back into Fall and then winter again. So thoughts of Spring and some fewer layers of clothing are never far from my mind. If Punky Phil could give me some good news about warmer days then I was all ears. Apparently this fine old tradition (made even more famous by Bill Murray’s movie) was introduced by British and German settlers. The superstition is that if the groundhog emerges from its hole on February 2 and sees its shadow, it gets frightened and rushes back into its hole for another six weeks. That means there will be six more weeks of cold wintry weather. If however, the groundhog does not see its shadow then we can all look forward to an early spring.

In my research on the topic, I also learned that groundhogs are also called marmots – the very creatures that Michel helped me stalk in the Swiss Alps on my first visit there. They are very cute and I was determined to get a photo of one. However, they are also very frisky and each time I spotted one and Michel stopped the car, the marmotte (French spelling) had disappeared down a hole. We had great trouble seeing them let alone their shadow, despite Michel’s extraordinary patience and persistence! Now, I remembered that a few months ago, Marie-Francoise had sent me a postcard with a photo of two marmottes, so I decided that Peter and I could conduct our own West Lafayette Marmotte Day weather test. On Saturday morning, I took the postcard outside and voila! A shadow! The day was indeed sunny. I should have tried it around the other side of the apartment where our car was parked in the shadow of the building and covered in a thick layer of ice. So, sadly, our bright sunny day gave us the dismal forecast of six more weeks of cold.

But before I sound too distraught and distressed I must confess that we have had extraordinarily good luck with the winter weather. All around us, fierce storms have caused havoc and misery. In fact last week, severe ice storms with frozen rain paralysed many states in mid-western America. The weight of frozen water broke many trees and power lines and the icy conditions caused a number of accidents and deaths. Many homes were without power for days. Such a storm would be disastrous for us too, particularly as all our heating, lighting and cooking power is electric. We know how lucky we have been. We have had storms to the north, south, east and west of us, but so far we have stayed safe.

The snow and ice in surrounding areas meant we had to stay pretty close to home this weekend and make our own entertainment (such as standing in the cold watching for shadows from post cards). We went to the movies Saturday afternoon and saw “In the Bedroom”. It was very moving and VERY depressing. Peter didn’t like it much, but I found it interesting. However, it lost marks for not having a satisfactory (or even an unsatisfactory) ending. It just sort of faded to black, and really that describes the whole movie! The good news is that “Lantana” is about to be released over here, so I am looking forward to seeing that after hearing such good reports of it from many of you.

On Sunday, we went to watch the Purdue women play basketball against Wisconsin. It was still fine and sunny (but freezing cold), so we decided we would walk the 2 miles each way as we needed the exercise. It was a very close-fought, exciting game with the lead going back and forth many times. It was only in the last 3 minutes that the Purdue women took a commanding lead that had the crowd going wild. Matt had asked to see if we could get a close up shot of one of the cheerleaders. I did my best.

The other main sporting event of the weekend was the Super Bowl, but I had absolutely no interest in it. The most amazing thing about it from my point of view was the fact that they create special ads just for this event, and they had a whole program on TV last week describing and discussing them, and the millions of dollars they cost to produce. I found something else to watch that night too.

Laura provided me with the quiz question for this week. She reminded me that we haven’t always been so lucky with the weather. What meteorological event did we feel the full force of on 1st February, 16 years ago? Attach the answer to a marmotte’s ankle and mail to this address.

While we have been physically stuck in Lafayette, our hearts and thoughts have been all around the globe this week – in England with Nick celebrating his birthday, in Switzerland with Marie-Francoise celebrating her birthday, in Kingaroy with Sam on his first day of school, and in Gympie with Terese on her birthday. Hope you all celebrated well.