When I was a teenager and reading a lot of books on WWII, I remember one particular passage which concerned the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Promised that they would be in and out before winter set in, they’d only been issued with summer uniforms and a few trenchcoats and scarves. The paragraph I recall told of how the German soldiers woke one morning in early October to find a skim of ice on the water buckets which their horses drank from. Far from Germany, and still advancing, they knew from this seemingly trivial event that they were deep in the shit. For someone like me, their fear can only be imagined.
Things are not quite as bad here in Sakhalin, but this morning marked the first day when I found frost on my windscreen. Not very much at all, it must be said, but it was there and it’s only going to get worse. Fortunately, unlike the German soldiers who took part in Operation Barbarossa, most foreigners invading Sakhalin today have a Toyota Landcruiser with remote control starting. I’d not seen this before, but it is a function attached to the alarm and immobiliser which allows you to start your vehicle remotely, and from quite a considerable distance. The idea is you wake up in the morning, flick the button on your little remote control, and your car outside starts up. Of course, the doors are still locked and the immobiliser on so no passing Scouser can simply help himself. The idea is that when you leave your car at night you turn the heater and the demister on full, so as you take your shower and eat your cornflakes your car gradually heats up and clears the window ready for when you eventually come down to drive it away. One of the more surreal side effects of this functionality is walking to your car parked amongst dozens of others in a secure care park and finding several cars sitting seemingly abandoned with the engine running, and several more burst into life as you walk past without another human being in sight. It is like the Toyota Landcruisers of Sakhalin have been inspired by the Terminator films into revolting against their human masters.
I haven’t got this system fitted on my car yet, so I have to clear the windscreen by sitting in the car shivering. Not that I’d have been able to stand in a hot shower and wait anyway. The town’s heating came on a few days ago, and the hot water eventually reached my apartment’s radiators yesterday. The side effects of this is that I now have masses of hot water in the evening (whereas before I had none) but nothing whatsoever in the morning (when I used to have plenty). Oddly, the radiators seem to have hot water in all the time, which means they must be on a completely different circuit. So I am now unable to have a shower in the morning, and if this keeps up I’m going to have to learn to take my daily shower in the evenings instead. Ah, the joys of living in a former communist paradise!