Abdul the snowman

Winter skies in Westmount
I thought I'd talk a little about snow clearing here in Montreal. Not in a Canadian - complaining about snow still being on the pavements 30 minutes after a major snowstorm - sort of a way. But in a British - isn't it marvelous that people actually come out to work in bad weather way. The local newspaper is full of letters of complaint from the time the first flake hits the ground here. Why does it take so long to clear the snow? How dare snow be allowed to lie on the ground for a few hours. It's a disgrace. That kind of thing.

Get it cleared - it's disgusting

But for someone from the land of the wrong kind of leaves, where the country grinds to a halt after the slightest snow fall, I am seriously impressed. Especially by Abdul.
Abdul is our snowman and we pay him at the beginning of every winter to clear our alleyway which leads to our parking space behind our flat. We share the cost with our neighbours downstairs.

Can anybody hear me - I'm snowed in

It's very comforting to go to bed in the middle of a snowstorm and be woken by the sound of Abdul's snow plough hurtling down the lane. Not just him but the dozens of men and women who drive the snow clearing convoys around the streets here. Yes Brits, it's not a couple of blokes with a brush, but a convoy of trucks from the tiny ones that fit on the pavement and scare the life out of you when they creep up behind you to the big snow blowers and snow movers that take up half the street and rattle our windows.

Best of all is the snow siren. This warns car owners the convoy is coming and they will be towed if they don't move their cars. They get plenty warning - orange signs go up on lamp-posts a couple of days before an organised snow-clearance. But the locals like to leave it until the last minute and only move their cars from their side of the street when the siren sounds.

This is full of letters complaining about the snow
I always remember a friend who was flying back to Canada from England in last year's bad winter. The flight was delayed but the comforting words of the captain told passengers that the wings were being cleared of snow. This friend looked out to see a couple of blokes brushing it off with the sleeve of their jackets. What are they going to clear the streets with, she asked? A teaspoon?

Finally here's a great little video shot by my friend Wendy, which shows how a whole army of workers leap into action when the snow needs clearing in Montreal. Click on this link


  1. I love your friend's video and it's made me nostalgic for Montreal's lovely neighbourhoods. What's a common sight to Canadians in a big city must be a wonder to your UK friends and family. I know how things grind to a halt as soon as the first flakes appear over 'ome. Have you ever been on one of Canada's major highways when four snowploughs are clearing side-by-side? There's an awesome sight.

  2. I've never seen four at once. This is a Canadian Winter experience I need to aim for - now I have achieved the frozen insides of my nose thing.


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