Preparing for a Snow Day

The weather forecast over the last few days had been predicting a night of heavy snow. It’s worth noting that anything more than about half an inch of snow tends to grind England to an absolute halt. I’m sure those living in the northerly reaches of Europe or North America will probably laugh – and so they should. It kind of makes sense though – we see snow perhaps once or twice a year, for no longer than a day or two at a time – therefore nobody bothers to provision for it. There was a period – during the late 1990s and early 2000s – when we saw no snow at all for perhaps a decade in the south of England.

While the children fell asleep this evening with hopes of a winter wonderland in the morning, I fear their hopes may be dashed. The “heavy snow for many hours” has evolved into “heavy rain for several hours, followed by a halfhearted attempt at some snow at the end”. I’m writing this at 11pm, and while the rain has stopped, there is no sign of the wished-for snow at all.

I brought my laptop home from work as a precaution – I imagine I’ll be carrying it straight back to work in the morning.

Our children must wonder what happened to the snow they remember from years gone by. When they were little we had snow for several winters in a row – serious quantities of snow that stayed around for weeks at a time. There has been nothing like the winter when I was young though – perhaps 1981? We walked across the fields to visit my grandparents in the next village, and met my grandfather shoveling a path out of his driveway. There was no school for weeks.

I remember the winter of the Gulf War – 1990 – it snowed, and my Dad was called out with one of the loading shovels from the family business (a Quarry) – tasked with keeping the route from nearby RAF Brize Norton and the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford open in case any casualties were flown in. He told stories of idiots with stranded cars that had “gone out to look at the snow” with their children, abandoned cars buried in the snow tumbling in front of the digger bucket, and numerous kerb stones being ripped up by accident.

I remember Mum worrying all night if he was ok – this was in the days before mobile phones – until we felt the earth moving under the house, and looked out (in a suburban street) to see a digger the size of the house illuminating the entire street with spotlights, and my Dad grinning from the heated cab high above. Curtains up and down the street opened, and were filled with faces full of wonder. Our entire street got cleared of snow that night in a matter of minutes as he made his way back out.

It’s funny – when you’re a child, you look out at snow coming down, and immediately look for your hat, scarf, and gloves. When you grow up, you look out at snow coming down, and think “oh crap”.

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