Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shaken from white wash buckets down the sky ...

A bit chilly, eh? Sunday afternoon it was -10C. And that was when the sun was out. Last January, they said that the weather was "a once in a generation event". Hey-ho.

And, I heard a punter on Radio 4 declaiming that it was "time that this country stopped being so insular". For an island, that may be a challenge. Anyone feel like getting out and giving us a push?

I never quite know whether I like the white stuff. The sensible bit of me sees the chaos and danger and the bone-chilling hard work for the farmers and other outdoor workers. It was much easier being ten.

In 1963, I had just turned ten and loved the stuff. The pleasure was heightened by the fact that school was closed for weeks. The ancient pipes had burst and we had to go in every day for 6 weeks, sign the register and then go home.

We had no running water for two months and drinking water had to be collected from a standpipe a quarter of a mile away. Snow was gathered in big pans and heated on the Rayburn to give us water to wash. Ten year olds don't need much washing anyway.

My mother frantically tried to keep the house clean against melted slush trailing through. Dad delivered milk every day and always checked on the old and frail on his milkround. I would help him carry freezing bottles up grey stone paths. He trudged with icy cold metal milk crates, his hands chilled to the bone in fingerless gloves. The gloves would be put in the slow oven to dry and warm up before he went out again.

My dad's friend was the undertaker and he made me a sledge out of a failed coffin side. Dad polished it up and fixed a box seat and ropes for steering. The final embellishment was the runners. Two stair-rods were screwed in place and we buffed the monster up a bit to give it extra whizz. It certainly had extra whizz and I trudged up the hill valiantly until my legs were like jelly. The descent was a few moments of squealing delight.

Ten was just the age to be, eh?

"Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

Dylan Thomas


  1. As I am safe and cosy indoors, I quite like the snow, especially as there is enough of it to definitely not even think about struggling into work.

    When there is less of it and I feel obliged to attempt the journey I absolutely hate it.

    I remember those winters in the 1960's very well. As kids we thought it was great fun and had a wonderful time. But I do remember one miserable 3-mile walk home from school when the bus got stuck. And I now realise that it must have been hell for my parents, Mum trying to get the shopping done and Dad trying to get to work on his old BSA motorcycle - no work meant no pay and money was short anyway in those days.

  2. funny how perception changes with responsibility
    I am looking out over the Beacons covered in snow and the town looking like one of those globes you shake as the fine snow swirls around and down.
    So glad to be working from home today :>)


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