It is snowing.
If you live in bits of Canada, quite a lot of Sweden, the polar research lab in Antarctica, this is probably not very earth shattering news.
In the West Midlands of the UK, an extremely temperate zone, this is quite unusual. It is not lying thickly but it’s enough to stop me putting the library out because the books wouldn’t like it.
I have lived in various parts of the UK and it’s quite surprising what a difference location makes to snow in such a small island. At school in the North East of England next to the sea, we learned about the modifying effects of the proximity of the sea on a nearby landmass. I don’t recall going to the beach in the snow much, the North Sea being pretty chilly all year round. It wasn’t too bad if you got all of you into the sea and swam, but paddling was likely to leave you with feet a different colour from the rest of you. I did go to school, on the bus for five miles and then a half hour walk through a park in all weathers. Snow days had not been invented. Playtime in the snow, outside, was bracing. Our school uniform was pleated short woollen skirts, which indoors would steam for a couple of lessons. Going home, your thick tweed coat kept you insulated rather than warm. It did snow reliably but it never lay on the roads, not that it mattered because not everyone had a car.
Leaving home at twenty one, I moved to Nottingham, in the middle of the country. After marrying we settled in a house in an elevated position, known as Mapperley Top. The snow lay thickly for weeks. Snow days had still not been invented, this teacher went to school in hail, rain, or shine but if it was very snowy the children were not allowed out to play, mainly because of the corridors. These ran round the entire rectangular school on the inside, enabling the children to trample snow straight into the classrooms, though, as the corridors were glass roofed and full of holes, the corridors were always wet anyway.
When I left for motherhood the infant travelled by pram in the summer and sledge in the winter. I drag a mean sledge, I do. It’s one of my effortless abilities, along with sandcastle building, that has not been required much at all subsequent to its acquisition.
We moved to Aylesbury Vale, which is, as the name suggests, in a rift valley. I did not live there long enough for much snow but the ground baked so hard in summer the only plants that I could grow successfully in the solid mud were roses. The vale was a frost pocket. My attempts to grow asparagus were thwarted by late frosts, which gave way just in time for the slugs to get going.
And here we are in the West Midlands. It’s a bit Camelot-like, if you recall the song from the musical. The snow does not lie upon the hillsides, the summers are balmy, the autumns are crisp and nothing lasts too long for boredom. Here, at last, where the weather is well-behaved, we have entirely unneeded snow days.
Have we all got soft? (Yes.) Is it global warming? (Maybe.)
My location does, of course, account for the paucity of snow in Shakespeare. It’s a great plot device, is snow. The menace it lends to The Wind in The Willows is memorable. Oh the thick snow! Oh the poor little creatures! But Shakespeare lived in the next town to here and may well have visited the theatre which has now been replaced by a multi-storey carpark, which has never been shut to cars because of snow in thirty three years to my knowledge. On the other hand, if there had been so much snow he could not have arrived at the multi-story car park, in Theatre Street (yes it is really still called that), in his youth, he may have turned into a sledge manufacturer or some such instead. Snow days, snow plays.
I did once visit the snow deliberately. I went with school on a winter holiday to Switzerland. I was rubbish. I discovered that if you fell over on your skis, the ski instructor, who was about eighteen and very good looking, even in a woolly hat, would come and pick you up. Naturally I did not learn to ski though I was excellent at falling over. My main interests were in keeping my legs away from the unlined tweed trousers inherited from my taller thinner cousin, with which I had been equipped and getting my hands on the packets of three cocktail cigarettes which were speedily removed from the hotel tea plates of each girl on the first night.
When I discovered my Mediterranean ancestry three years ago, the retro-active relief was massive. I am not a wimp at all. I am not designed to be a tall thin skier whizzing through the snow. I am designed to be a short, fat, black-clad auntie, dragging a donkey up a hill in the sunshine. Fortunately I don’t have to do that either. Me and Shakespeare, we can just sit indoors, in our tights (I was going to do a work out) and write until the nasty snow stops. If it does we’ll pop into Theatre Street and either watch a play or do some shopping, depending on the century and think about getting some folios out tomorrow, as long as it isn’t another snow day.