Ally ally aster, snow snow faster.
I’ve never lived with snow. It’s always been a short lived treat, a holiday destination, a gift. The excitement of watching it start, through the window at school. The hope of being sent home early! The hope of being snowed in the next day – is there anything to match that excitement? And the adventure of being sent home on the bus, and there being snow, and getting held up, and maybe having to walk home, and somebody having their PE kit with them and being able to put on a sweatshirt over your school uniform, and the world changing and rules disappearing…
Of course, snow features a lot in the photo album of our memory. In fact, in our photo albums we have mainly two kinds of weather – sunshine and snow. There’s a picture of me aged about 8 rolling a snowball that (in my memory at least) is bigger than I am. Even up in Yorkshire, snow only lasted a couple of days – never quite long enough for the novelty to wear off.
I’ve visited snow. Deep, white snow in Germany – and frozen canals and gluhwein and a very casual attitude to it all. And the weight of snow in Finland – snow that’s only going to get deeper until spring – snow that isn’t going to melt for weeks – snow that clings to trees, weighing them down. Snow that’s lit with dawn light until it’s let with dusk light. It was so cold there, you could actually see the shape of snowflakes, that crystalline hexagonal shape.
We took a ferry into Dublin one Christmas, the only white Christmas I remember, and the roofs were piled with snow. We sledged on a little hill up the road from my in-laws. We didn’t need to drive anywhere – it was wonderful.
I’ve been snowed in at home – and once I was snowed in at work – came off a night shift in A&E to find I couldn’t get home. I slept in a friend’s on call room, and then followed him home – him in a Landrover, me in my yellow, ugly duckling Renault 4. Snowed in at home, in this house, we had to walk to the end of the lane with a sledge for supplies.
But usually, a snow day is a one-off. A gift. A free gift, no obligations. A day for going out into the snow and getting cold – footprints in the lane, the black and white geometry of hedges, once a place where an owl’s wings had kissed the snow. – and then coming in to get warm. Hot chocolate. Toast by the fire. And the pandemic? I was privileged enough for it to feel like a snow day for a long time. A time when there was nothing much to do except get to know these young adults who were my children.
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