In a strange turn of events, there is still snow on the ground. It’s still falling but not as much as it was yesterday here near London. Today the North East of England is bearing the brunt of the storm.
In the meantime, I am once again amazed at the complete inability for the English to cope with snow of more than a couple of flakes. Even when the forecast clearly states, days in advance, that there will be snow (and warnings that it’s likely to be a record-breaking downfall) it still seems to catch everyone off guard here.
Now, it’s not often that I say the United States is better than England but this is one of those times. Every winter where I grew up, there was a vast amount of snow, ice, frost, flurries, ice storms, blizzards, and drifting snow. We were ready for it. We expected it. We anticipated it and we would shovel out. It was rare that schools or offices would close. We would just get up earlier than usual and pour warm water on our windshields and go. I remember once needing two pasta pots full of hot water to clear my windscreen once while living in the US! That was during an ice storm…
Midwestern winters are cold and brutal. I used to love struggling through it because I knew that all that effort made me a stronger individual. Not just anyone is bonkers enough to live through that year after year. Of course when I was very young, Mom wouldn’t let me shovel the snow but as I got older I would come over from my apartment and shovel out for the price of a hot chocolate. These days Mom hires someone to plough her out – which is usually more expensive than it really should be but it’s better than being 60 and shovelling!
I have a photo of my swing-set in the back garden of my home when I was young – but you can only see one top corner of it. The rest is covered in snow. I have no idea how many feet that must have been that winter – possibly 6 or 7.
I was in a “white out” once. Well, when I say I was in a white out – I mean that I had enough sense to stay at home during one. I got up one morning and couldn’t see my car in the drive so I stood at the front door and held my arm out. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere when I couldn’t see my hand. Instead I listened to the radio and waited for the storm to subside.
I am familiar with several different kinds of snow. I think I’m right in saying that people in Norway and Sweden have about 600 words to describe different kinds of snow. Clearly a society revolves around the stuff if you have 600 words to describe it! I feel close to the snow too. It is part of the rhythm of my life. I know what spring smells like in the Midwest – the sight of the ground thawing there is something totally alien to someone from this part of England. What looks like a cold and brutal day to an Englishman, looks strangely like spring to me. I find it inspiring. It makes me happy.
Ice storms are deadly. I went for a walk in it once. I found that the yew hedge leaves looked like they were covered in some strange liquid membrane that reminded me of tadpole eggs. The fences I was walking past were merely metal poles with one strand of chain between. These chains grew stalagmites and looked like an alien backbone. Everywhere I stepped I had to be extremely careful as the ice grew thicker and thicker. I felt more like I was skating than walking. It was beautiful. Unfortunately the extra weight on the power lines left most in my home town without power in the coldest part of winter. The University has its own generators and became a haven for those who wanted a hot shower and a hot meal.
Here everyone gets frightened of a little frost and the gritters rarely need to come out. I suppose its little wonder that when we finally do get a little snow (between 6 – 8 inches) the country grinds to a standstill. Yesterday our airports closed, flights cancelled, the London busses stop, and the London Underground was simply unavailable for the morning. Today has been no better. My mom was joking yesterday saying I was probably the only one in the country who knew how to drive in these conditions and I think she was probably right.
The roads today haven’t been as bad as yesterday but there are news reports of snow turning to ice (compacting more like) and the conditions are just as treacherous. At least I don’t have to worry about Helios – he walks to work. While I imagine that the pavements are just as slippery, I’m not worried about him having an accident. He’s far more graceful than I am, which sounds odd but is true.
Helios has made me laugh with the anticipation of our winter storms here in England. He even did a “snow dance” like a Native American in the hope that there would be enough snow to gather together a snowball. Well, he’s got what he wished for. Winter at last!