If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Deep. And crisp, even ...

Yesterday, the weather finally caught up with the BBC Weather Service and did what it was supposed to do. Snow.

It started yesterday afternoon with a bit of cold rain, which gradually turned into sleet, and then started falling more slowly and visibly white. By nightfall, we had a nice covering of crisp flakes all over the drive. This morning, the world was eerily quiet, which is one of my favourite memories of snow as a child. I lived in the frozen North (County Durham) and we had snow every winter. One day, the sky would darken and you could smell the approaching snow. That night, you went to bed in anticipation of something special.

If you were lucky, when you woke up there were two signs that snow had arrived. One was the strange quietness, as the newly-fallen snow muffled any noises, and the other was the odd lighting effect in the bedroom - the ceiling was brighter than normal, as the majority of light entering the room was coming from below, reflected from the snow in the garden. If it was the weekend, it meant wellies on and a trip to the park with the toboggan. If it was a schoolday, it meant - school. I don't remember school ever being closed because of the weather. I suppose it helped that I was within easy walking distance of about half a mile - a distance that most parents today would consider to be justification for a 4x4 purchase and a row at the school gates over unsafe parking.

I can remember the winter of 1963 very well. I'm not old enough to remember 1947, but 63 was pretty epic. In fact, I can remember feeling fed up with snow by the time it ended, which says something. I was 9 in January 1963, and I can clearly remember walking up the road to school with the snow almost waist-deep. It had a hard crust on the top - although not hard enough to walk on - so that each step was an acrobatic lift of the leg to waist height, then a move forward and a plunge through the crust to the firm ground below. Getting to school took for ever that winter. The school playground was on a slope, so the first thing we did was to polish up a decent slide down the middle, and spend the time before lessons sliding sideways from the top of the playground to the bottom. The bell went for assembly, and while we were inside the caretaker would come out and put salt on it. It was "for our own good". Health and Safety didn't start with the 1974 Act. (To be fair, he always salted the slide after we had gone inside. These days, there would be a 'procedure' whereby the slide would be salted before anyone arrived and a full auditable record kept, to ensure that no-one had any fun at all.)

I'm rambling. Again. This is what it looked like half an hour ago:

View from the front door.

The lane to the main road.

View across the valley behind the house.

And not to forget the bikes:

A very frozen Pan, and

A cold and soggy XT. Bless 'em. I'll bring them in for some hot soup later.

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