Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snow days of yore (well, the seventies anyway)

Katyboo (hmm, not sure the link worked - look on the left hand side if it didn't) had some rather fabulous and fond memories of being a snow child of the seventies. I'm with her 100% on this and reading her entries has inspired me to pass some of my snowbound time with fond misty recollections of my own:

Being Snowed in: this had a nasty habit of happening the day after we were taken back to boarding school. Our parents would ring and tell us that several hundred feet of snow had fallen the moment they got home, and what a pity that we weren't there to enjoy it! One famous time though we had a houseful of people staying - 12 of us in all and we got snowed in, then the power cut out and we lost the hot water. We were there for four days living by candlelight, with the boys taking thermoses of hot water heated on the aga upstairs to shave. I can remember how strange it was to be woken in the dark morning by my father with a candle.

It is astonishing how much washing up there is to do when you have to heat all the water to do it in a kettle, and how often it has to be done with 12 people to feed. Eventually we tracked down some paper plates and resorted to those, burning them after eating. The nice thing about it was that we all ended up in the same room, writing letters, playing board games and playing cards. It was too cold to go off and sulk on your own and there werent' enough candles to light more than one room properly. Each night we took our own candlestick upstairs to bed. It's the closest I've ever been to being remotely like a Georgette Heyer character.

Tobogganing: I grew up in the mountains of Wales so hillsides weren't exactly in short supply. On snow days the four siblings, the parents and the inevitable pack of dogs (my parents have never had less than four) would pile along the track behind the house each dragging a toboggan. The road drops precipitously off into fields with a slope so steep it is hard to get onto the toboggan before it shoots off down the hill. The slope was long, incredibly fast and laced with frozen mole hills that could destroy a cocyx with one blow or send you flying through the air. As the bottom approached, you had to hurl yourself off the toboggan into the snow or hit the dry stone wall. Each time, the dogs would come pelting down beside you, occasionally one of them would throw themselves onto the toboggan with you, risking life and limb (ours) in the process. The long walk back up took five minutes and we spent our entire childhood trying to persuade my father to create some sort of a chairlift using the tractor from the farm. We told him that Hannibal from the A team would be able to do it, so why couldn't he?

Epic Journeys: I think my parents specialised in epic journeys. The one and only time I have been a bridesmaid was one such time. It was a January wedding and it snowed and snowed and snowed. The sheep were buried under drifts and had to be rescued and the half mile of drive leading to our house had disappeared entirely, becoming level with the hedges either side. I was to be a bridgesmaid to a girl who had been my mother's bridesmaid and the wedding was taking place relatively nearby - some 25 miles or so. To this day, I don't know why my parents were so determined that we were going to make it there but the decision was made.

I remember being dressed in an abandoned ski suit of my sister's. The bridesmaid dress was put in a bag and I was put with said bag in a toboggan then my father and mother set off down the drive pulling me along. I couldn't have walked if I had wanted to as the snow was so deep. I have such a clear memory of my father, who is 6'2", disappearing up to his shoulders in a drift at one point.

We walked nearly two miles to a farm near the A road. He lent us a landrover and we piled into this. The main roads were relatively clear, as I remember it, but the road up to the church and house was a steep single track lane that no gritter had seen for years. Ahead of us was a coal lorry. I have no idea how, but this coal lorry made it to the top, clearing a path for us to follow behind him.

I don't remember much of the wedding itself. I have a clear memory of being lent a cream shawl to wrap around myself because the church was so cold, and of eating eclairs under a billiard table in a vast and draughty house where the reception was held. My next memory is back in the Landrover. Dad had bought us fish and chips and we drove through a starlit and snowy world and watched a total eclipse of the moon.

I don't remember the toboggan journey back up the drive. I must have been asleep by then. I do know that most of the wedding party, including the bridge and groom, were unable to leave, and so the reception went on for three days!

Now, I must go and muffle myself up in my snow kit as I have to relive my youth and make my way through the dusk to the village where a friend is dropping off some stuff for me that I need. I wonder if he will bring fish and chips?


Mr Farty said...

Oh, wow! That toboggan ride sounds amazing. Bet it was fecking freezing at the time.

A mate of mine said today that this snow is nothing (correct, it's melted already) - when he was young the snow was up over the railway sleepers.
"So what?"
"We used a pair of railway sleepers as gateposts."

You need to code your links like this (I hope):
<a href="http://katyboo1.wordpress.com/">Katyboo</a>

justme said...

That is a fantastic story....what an amazing memory to have. I must say, I remember childhood winters as having rather more snow in them than they do these days. Perhaps because I spent my childhood in Scotland and Wales rather than the south of England!

Welsh Girl said...

Mr Farty - it was! I'm amazed none of us broke anything to be honest!

I tried coding the link like that but it just disappears when I post the entry. I am cursed to never be able to link anything!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story! I remember the perils of frozen cowpats on icy hillsides and my mother putting the grate from the fire outside to cool - only to have it buried under 4 foot of snow by morning!

Welsh Girl said...

Mud in the City - why exactly did she put the grate outside? Wasn't it being hot useful for, well, heating purposes???

Anonymous said...

Good point. I think we were going to bed and she was getting paranoid about burning the house down!

Those were the days - ice on the inside of the windows, having to get dressed in bed, sleeping under everyone's coats to keep warm... happy days!

katyboo1 said...

That toboggan story so reminds me of one of my favourite books as a kid; 'All About the Bullerby Children' by Astrid Lindgren. They went to a big party on sledges and I was so envious. I am now envious of you as well!

Welsh Girl said...

Katyboo - I've never come across that one. I shall have to get onto Amazon Used and Abused and see if I can track down a copy.

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