Winter in Ulaanbaatar brought with it new wonders and mysteries.
Walking along the footpaths I encountered strange marks in the flattened snow. There were indents the size of sultanas, set about a foot apart, making their way along the street. Had someone been walking with an unopened umbrella, touching its tip to the ground at measured intervals? Surely not. Rain only falls during the summer. This was the middle of winter. Perhaps the marks were from a walking stick. The more I looked, the more I saw. They were everywhere. I couldn’t believe that so many people were using walking sticks and I hadn’t seen any of them. Were walking sticks were on sale somewhere? Had they become the latest indispensable fashion accessory? I resolved to get to the bottom of this. The only thing missing as I sat on my balcony surveying the street, was my rocking chair and a shotgun. Soon one of the culprits walked past. Part of me was a little disappointed to discover that it was women who were responsible. Why couldn’t it have been part of an alien master plan to take over the world, by infiltrating human society disguised as walking sticks? It was so logical.
More precisely, it was the impractically high shoes favoured by women that were to blame. With chopsticks for heels, neat little divots were left as they stepped across the compacted snow. The shoes, with their pointy ‘winkle picker’ toes, made walking akin to flopping along the beach in swimming flippers. Some clutched their boyfriend’s arms for dear life as they tried to negotiate the icy footpaths. Others were braver and tackled rougher terrains, picking their way resolutely along rocky dirt roads, across snowy paddocks and up steep flights of wonky, concrete stairs. They provided me with no end of amusement. Watching these trendy young ladies teetering precariously about in six inches of snow with three inch stilettos I had to restrain myself from laughing. When they encountered black ice I felt a certain level of satisfaction as they slipped, swayed and toppled to the ground like miniature Mongolian Goliaths. What on earth had they been thinking when they dressed that morning? “Oooh look, it’s snowing! There’s bound to be plenty of ice around today, better wear my stilettos.” Perhaps the aliens were smarter than I thought. They had disguised themselves as indispensable high heels.