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When my sister and her new husband told me they were coming to visit me here in Beijing this winter, it was a pleasant surprise, but when my parents announced they would be coming too I was less than enthralled. Did they not know how cold it gets in Beijing? Would they be able to deal with the biting Siberian winds that occasionally wail down from the frigid North?

Once the mission to dissuade my parents from coming at such an inhospitable time of year was accomplished, I outlined the various garments my sister and brother-in-law would need for their trip. Armed with the type of thermal protection designed for people who could be stranded in Alpine passes or on the Arctic shelf, they made their way over here.

Upon their arrival, my brother-in-law told me the snow on the way to the airport in Dublin was so bad that only one lane of traffic was open on the highway. He informed me that he had never been out during a Code Red before. I was momentarily taken aback. Code Red? What did that mean? Was Ireland being invaded? Should we all get on a plane and return to Ireland to defend it from beach incursions? Were the British coming to finish what they started?

Alas, this was just another example of Irish melodrama in the face of inclement weather.

Of course, there were also some cold days during their trip to China, but the temperature began to rise during their stay over the Christmas, with layers being shed, jackets being left open, scarves hanging loose.

Shortly after they left I found myself sitting outside with a friend on the first day of the year, the temperature rising to eleven degrees Celsius: ten degrees above the average high. We joked about climate change not being all bad, but there was no joy to be derived from the unseasonable warmth. Fifteen months ago saw record high precipitation in Beijing in one day, and yet this winter has been dry as a desert (70 days without rain and counting), and is seemingly eager to make it into the record books. Looking at the horrendous weather reports from around the world, it’s like living in the eye of a storm.

Everything has been turned on its head. I am rapidly approaching my fortieth birthday. The natural order of things should see me feeling depressed at the waning years of my prime, yet I am filled with a profound sense of relief that, whatever happens, I can no longer be robbed of my youth by a global calamity of Roland Emmerich proportions.


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