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It set me thinking about the winters we have had recently (or maybe I should say "endured", when thinking of the two most recent winters!).
Last year and the year before, we had some warm and wet weather, but there were spells in December when it snowed and snowed, with freezing temperatures - and the resulting disruptions to work and school days, transport, postal and goods deliveries, power supplies etc...
December 22nd 2009
December 22nd 2010
December 22nd 2011
Earlier I was reading an article about the winters of 1946/47 and 1962/63 (both of which happened before I was born), when all of Britain was plunged into periods of sub-zero temperatures, blizzards and deep, drifting snow.
1963 - Margate, the sea froze over
The blizzard hit us in mid-February, when we were just about thinking that winter was nearly over (!). School half-term holiday was on the way and we were looking forward to a few days at home, relaxing by the fire, walking in the fields, perhaps visiting Grandma in town. However, on February 14th or 15th, we woke to deep snow and white fields all around. Our mother gave us a warm breakfast and sent us off, to walk down the hill to the bus-stop, in our school coats and gloves, scarves and knitted hats. I think we probably wore wellington boots to walk in, carrying our school shoes.
We waited a very long time for our bus. The main road was mostly clear (I suppose they had snow-plough lorries out), but the bus service had been very disrupted. The bus did arrive eventually, but not before my Reynauds' had got the better of me. Its arrival found me sitting on the edge of the kerb, with my head between my knees, no doubt very white in the face, dizzy and desperately cold. My sister hailed the bus and explained the problem to the bus conductor - a lovely lady, who immediately took charge. I was half-carried up to the top deck of the bus. The kids sitting on the long front seat were unceremoniously kicked off, so that she could place me right in front of the heater, which was blasting out wonderful warm air. By the time we reached school, I had thawed out (quite painfully!) and no longer felt faint.
(the bus was like this one - photo by Boxley)We stumbled into school, around an hour late. About half the girls were missing - I suppose their homes were snowed in, or their parents didn't think they should risk the weather. Lessons were not running as usual, since some staff had also been unable to make it to school, but we all struggled on, until a message came round, about 1130am, that the whole school was to assemble in the main hall.
My school - in summer!We were told to go home; school was being closed and would re-open when the weather improved. There was a long queue for the one school pay-phone and some of us were sent to the office, to borrow the secretary's phone.
The bus usually came across town to pick us up at the end of the school day. It left at 4:10pm - so obviously we couldn't expect it to be there for us at 12pm. We all trudged across town to the bus station and were lucky to catch a bus that passed the end of our lane, as it went between Bedford and Luton, a very large town to the south of Bedfordshire. The bus driver was kind and let us get off there, although it wasn't a normal stop; this saved us some of our walk home, for which we were very grateful, as it was snowing again. I think our mother was relieved to see us and she soon had us warmed up again.
I think we were off school for the rest of the week. It was an unespected holiday and we made the most of it. I remember going for a walk in the fields that surrounded our cottage. They looked strange and unfamiliar, covered in snow and ice. We could barely recognise our normal routes and made our own footpaths across the snowy fields. Obviously some snowballs were thrown and I'm sure we talked about building a snowman in the garden of the cottage.
It was an exciting walk; until my sister decided to jump into a snow-pile that she found. A run-up, a jump - whooping with excitement. She disappeared. It wasn't just a snow-pile, it was a drift, which covered a deep water-filled ditch! Obviously, once I'd fished her out, I had to walk her home very quickly - shivering, wet and a bit tearful. Luckily the bathroom was warmed up, ready for us to have a bath on our return, so she was swiftly plunged into warm water and thawed out! She didn't suffer any harm at all - not even a cold.
I don't remember a lot more about that winter. We were pretty much house-bound for a while, only venturing into the fields a couple of times (with more care of snow-drifts!), enjoying our walks, but glad to be home again and warmed up. I'm sure we built some good snow-men (I remember being lent a hat and scarf by the neighbours and supplied with coal and carrots!). Then the wind changed, the temperature rose and the snow melted. We went back to school and life was back to normal.
We've had three or four very cold winters since (1980/81 for example), but I remember that first one best, because after that we moved closer to town and had central heating; the chill and snow didn't seem so difficult with the advantages of modern technology (and friends whose mothers gave us lifts to school on snowy days).
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This was my contribution to the first of Sian's Storytelling Sunday posts for 2012. I hope it made you smile!