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The white stuff memories are made of

Interesting how the recent snow episode which brought much of southern Britain to a halt was mirrored by a ‘once-in-a-generation’ snow event across the USA’s Midwest. Honestly, it’s as if they can’t let us experience our own meteorological crisis without having to get in on the act and doing it bigger, colder, snowier…you get my drift, as it were.

Seriously, though, what do all these good citizens (or is it ‘folk’) of Iowa and Idaho and lots of other states beginning with ‘I’ expect? They live there, after all. They know what to expect every winter: snow, snow and then more snow. That and deep freeze temperatures and ice-covered rivers and lakes and public transport shutdowns. Isolation is hard-wired into their systems. Some would argue that sense of being cut off from the rest of their compatriots is what’s brought America to where it is now but that’s not for me to debate. Not in this particular column, anyway.

The point is, they know how to deal with all this white stuff: well-stocked larders (does anyone have a larder nowadays?), mounds of blankets and quilts, ‘stay indoors – beware of frostbite’ alerts coming at them from every possible communication medium, even home-schooling programmes (no, not programs) for those endless snow days. Poor kids, I say.

We, on the other hand, in glorious, temperate Britain, are gloriously unprepared for the glorious winter wonderland which unfurls before us with what seems like increasing frequency every winter. Glory Be!

It only takes a light dusting of snow to send our infrastructure off the rails, and the greatest glory of all is that nothing ever changes no matter how often this entirely natural phenomenon occurs. (Er, entirely natural but probably boosted by mankind’s determination to lead us down the path of climate change.)

As it happens, the snows of early 2019 - firstly in the north and then the south – have had a bit more depth, so widespread disruption was marginally more understandable. An RAF station in Hampshire reported an accumulation of 19cm on February 1st and, let’s face it, that amount of snow is not to be sniffed at.

Even so, we were still treated to the televised spectacle of motorways being blocked by lorries and five-hour freezing traffic gridlock ensuing. Then there were the travellers who thought it made sense to cross Bodmin Moor when heavy snow had been widely forecast. And the Cornish college which didn’t think giving its students the afternoon off was a priority.

Sitting in your car going nowhere on a dark, blizzard-swept motorway is no-one’s idea of a good time and whilst we can question the judgement of those affected, they had our sympathy.

But crossing the moors? In darkness? In a snowstorm? Had these people never seen a horror movie??? Luckily for them, the Jamaica Inn, of mystical and romantic literary renown, proved a beacon of light and warmth (and booze and a dining room filled with temporary beds). This is a hostelry which hardly needs the publicity (though I daresay a few Du Maurier fans were astounded to discover there is an actual Jamaica Inn when they turned on their TV news). But an act of kindness – and, no doubt, a rousing night in the bar – is bound to bring the coach parties flocking come the warmer weather.

And those college kids – 400 of them – will have had an overnight experience they can share with anyone who’ll listen, for years to come. Roaming the corridors, hanging out in the canteen, wandering around wrapped in identical blankets (why did the college have all those blankets anyway?), making new friends, probably losing their grant fees playing cards…what an adventure.

It wasn’t too bad for the rest of us either. Here in the village, Mrs SAHD made the rather inexplicable decision to battle through the drifts for the early train into Big City (‘I have a course today’). As it happens, there wasn’t a snowflake on the grimy streets of the capital so her bravery/misplaced conscientiousness was justified. The rest of us waited for the inevitable ‘school’s closed’ emails to drop and then cranked up the heating, got stuck in to breakfast and made plans for our Friday Snow Day.

Older son loves snow but prefers a window between him and it. So his experience of the white stuff was restricted to opening the back door, grabbing a handful and sticking it in the freezer or seeing how long it would take to melt – that sort of cod-scientific thing. Other than that it was devices, reading and (impressively) homework all the way.

Younger son was even happier. A meet up with friends for an extensive snowball fight / snowman making / sliding session; later, a spell in the nearby field building another snowman, stomping through acres of virgin snow and leaving an earthly host of snow angels in his wake. And in the evening we wandered down to the station, wellies in hand, to meet Mrs SAHD off the train. A good day for him.

Me – I managed a coffee with some other parents as we hid from the near-blizzard. I periodically topped up the bird feeders and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the cat gang to take a snowy stroll. I spent a lot of time drying the sodden post-snowy-revels clothing (see above) and sent some pictures of our Snow Day to Mrs SAHD. And she was happy to receive them and happier still to slam the front door behind her as we all hunkered down on a night of deep lying snow, frost and – well we all know the rest. Just like our cousins across the not Frozen Pond.
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