Wednesday, 6 January 2010

It's Still Snowing


9am this morning and we're at the wonderful stage where everything has a snowy highlight and there's not a paw nor footprint to be seen. The sounds of the world are muffled and it seems a simpler place somehow, unless you have to go out of course. I have a reflexology appointment later on the other side of town and I don't think that constitutes an essential trip: everyone's been advised to stay at home unless their journey is vital.

I've taken another video of the garden, but as it's so similar to yesterday's, I thought it wasn't worth loading up for display. The birds are still singing (as some of you observed), but today it's more of a token gesture. I was speculating where this winter might fit in the record books: so far it's the coldest since 1981/2 according to today's news.

I remember that winter very well. I'd just left home in Birmingham and moved into my first house which I'd bought at Pity Me, just outside Durham. There was no central heating, just a couple of gas fires. It was the devil of a job to keep the house warm and I awoke every morning to the sight of ice on the inside of the windows. I was sleeping on the floor at the time too as buying the house had taken all the available cash I had* and the thin mattress I'd managed to borrow was piled high with duvet, blankets, coats and everything else suitable in an effort to keep warm. The wind tore through the telephone lines outside the house making the eeriest of music at all hours of the day and night. I can also remember the River Wear freezing over in the centre of the city.

I was terrified the water pipes would burst, so I kept the fires on all day together with the cooker, so I was equally terrified that the house would burn down whilst I was out at work. Yes, I went to work: I'd just joined the Civil Service and they had a rule that if you lived within 3 miles of any Civil Service office, you had to make your way there when the weather was bad. I lived 2 miles away, so walking sliding there was the order of the day. That in itself was pretty scary because I had to go under the railway bridge just as I reached the city centre and there were some terrifyingly long icicles (over 4ft in length) dangling above my head as I went through.

The house didn't burn down and mine was the only one in the street not to have burst water pipes when the big thaw eventually came. Of course I thought it was a tremendous adventure at the time, but today I'm rather glad our house has central heating and my bedroom has a cosy duvet to snuggle under. It seems I've lost my tough northern constitution and joined the ranks of the softy southerners after all ;)

How's the weather with you today?

* = it was actually cheaper to buy a 2-up, 2-down terrace house than to rent a tiny flat, though I hadn't factored in the cost of buying furniture as well. A few essentials such as a cooker, table, dining chairs and a wardrobe came with the house. My new colleagues were wonderful (even though most of them couldn't understand why a young, single lass was buying a house especially when the sight of a ring on a certain finger was nowhere to be seen) and donated all the spare furniture they had, so I only had to sleep on the floor for a few weeks.

But do you know what? I was so proud of what I'd managed to achieve by scrimping and saving out of my student grant, post-student and holiday jobs that I sat there as pleased as punch despite the cold. That sense of freedom, independence and readiness to take on the world was absolute bliss :)

22 comments:

  1. Your first house sounds very like my last student house in Manchester!

    I remember the winter of 81/2 very well. I was working in the bank (I was SO in the wrong job!!!) in Sheffield, there was no transport and I had to trudge 8 miles through knee deep snow in a blizzard back to Rotherham. Not fun!
    I'm happy to spend my snow day inside today :)

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  2. hah! you're older than me!

    in 1981 I was 14 and have no memory whatsoever of it, being lost in a red-tinged fug of teenage angst. I have a childhood memory of trudging through dirty snow to school for several weeks on end so that might have been it.

    I remember more about the winter of 1986 when I was in my second year at university and my friend had taken digs down the other end of town. It was a typical student house - i.e. almost entirely uninhabitable - and had a two-inch gap under the back door. That winter there was a permanent snowdrift in the kitchen where it blew in under the door and they were reduced to huddling around a single electric fire together under a duvet. Good for student bonding, not so good for chilblains.

    The zenith of my friend's experiences was when she brought the milk in, there wasn't enough room in the fridge, so she thought, it's cold enough in here, it'll be safe enough if I leave the milk on top of the fridge. The milk on top of the fridge froze; the milk inside the fridge was fine.

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  3. 11 inches here over night and it has been snowing again for the last hour. Working from home and suspect might be doing the same tomorrow

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  4. Gosh, this post took me back to 81 -
    A winter from hell - we had no electricity for days on end because of the weather (?) and my middle son was 6 months old and ill - he had to be admitted hospital to get/ stay warm, so all I remember is going backwards and forwards in the snow to the hospital with a toddler in tow, and the guilt of not being able to stay with my baby in the hospital because I had no-one to look after the 2 year old.
    Nightmare
    Thankfully all was well in the end.
    K

    PS Snow all gone from my garden! The joy of living by the sea ;)

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  5. Well, it WAS an adventure, and you were a hero going to work and saving your water pipes!
    I love your snowy picture, and I'm a bit jealous since we haven't had any snow yet. I have an identity crisis because I used to live in a world with 5 snowy month! Happy 2010 and stay warm!

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  6. our little bit of snow is trying to melt, but it is still too cold at night. to date, no one is willing to share their snow! is it because people in my area are used to snow, or is it american foolishness: when reports say no travel unless needed,that translates as head to the stores, or theatres, or skiing, anywhere that doesn't involve work! so long as there are no blizzard conditions, it's travel as usual.

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  7. What a great story. In '81, I was in my first year at high school and was delighted when it shut for a couple of days. We went shopping using a sledge to carry the shopping home.

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  8. I've heard about the 'mythic 1981' so it's great to read your account. I was growing up in Melbourne in all the heat whilst England froze - I remember we even got news about England's freezing weather in Oz. Ironically, schools in the UK close for snow and in Melbourne, the schools closed once it go to 35 degrees. Give me the snow anytime!

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  9. They had proper winters in Northumberland and County Durham. On days like today I'm quite glad I'm not there now

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  10. Much the same here and I recall walking through the snow in 1981 but I wouldn't do it now.

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  11. I woke to a covering of snow and it's been coming down ever since!
    I remember the 1962/3 winter when it started snowing on Boxing Day and there was snow until March!
    I'm just glad that I can mostly remain indoors sofa flying nowadays. Mind you I did venture out this morning to help off-load and sort out the horticultural society's seed potato and onion sets order!
    Flighty xx

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  12. Good for you, managing to avoid burst pipes by keeping the fires lit! I'm glad your house didn't burn down, too!

    Re the housing, we found the same as you. When our younger son went to study in Sheffield, we found it was nigh on impossible to rent something decent for him so we bought a two up, two down terrace on the edge of town for him and a friend (who paid us rent), and thanks to Sheffield's excellent public transport system, they were able to get to uni just fine. A bonus was that when Sheffield flooded, they were above the water line, being that much further out.

    And now he's moving back down here, we still have the house to sell - and you got on the propery ladder. :)

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  13. There that Northern grit shows through with your astuteness in buying your first house.

    Yes I too rember walking to work just under 3 miles during the snow in the early 90's because of that 3 mile rule thankfully I am retired now so able to stay snuggled indoors.

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  14. You're sliding to work reminds me of when I was at college in 1981 in downstate Illinois, right at the ice line. The ice was about 4 inches thick on the sidewalks, and if you didn't slide your feet, you'd end up on your butt.
    Back to the present, I'm waiting for the snow to start in a few hours, with a total for the next couple days of possibly 10 inches. I hate to admit it, but I need new snow. Mine is ugly with deer tracks.

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  16. Well, we had about 6 inches in Surrey, and I figured that was it, but it has just started again. As a new-comer to gardening, and with so many jobs to do, I'm finding the weather a real frustration, especially as the first flush of enthusiasm is still bubbling away. Given all things, I'm finding that Old Ma Nature is a cruel mistress!

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  17. We were living on the edge of Dartmoor in '81 in a farm cottage...soooo cold. Glad to be enjoying the warmth of Spider acres. Sure is a pretty morning today with the snow all sparkly in the sunlight.

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  18. What a wonderful, touching story. :-)

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  19. Wow. As a Canadian, it's interesting to read your weather stories. But I can relate in a small way to the British experience: my sister and I lived with our grandmother for a year in North Wales on the sea coast, with all that rising damp, no central heating and coal fires in every room. I applaud your youthful enterprise!

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  20. Hi everyone - the snow stopped on Thursday, but it's due back this weekend!

    Nutty Gnome - I used to work in a bank as well: it wasn't the right job for me either!

    CG - I didn't have a fridge for a few months in my house, so I used the outside as my fridge for a while. Luckily one my colleagues donated her 30-years old fridge before the warm weather kicked in!

    PG - Stay warm! Working from home sounds a sensible thing to do.

    Karen - Ahhhhh living by the sea has its compensations! However, the local news showed frozen sea on some Somerset beaches this evening. It's really peculiar when that happens!

    Tatyna - thank you and congratulations on your first year of blogging :)

    Petoskystone - on the whole work and shops have been a lot quieter here. I can't vouch for the good sledging places though!

    HM - that sounds like fun :)

    Julianne - I'm amazed it reached the news in Oz, but then we do hear about the heatwaves in Oz over here, so perhaps it's not so surprising after all...

    Mark - aye they did! Did you see that Yorkshire woman on t'news saying that it was just a bit of snow that all those southerners don't know how to deal with, whereas it's business as usual oop t'north? Classic stuff ;)

    Gerald - I've decided I need a much better pair of boots before I venture out much more...

    Flighty - I can just about remember 62/63. You could argue that this cold spell started well before Boxing Day - is that a portent of what's to come I wonder? Stay warm!xx

    Jay - getting a lodger was my fall back position if I found the house bills too much. For the first 6 months I was always down to ny last fiver in my bank account. Then I had a raise and things got much easier :)

    Joanne - hurrah for you - stay warm!

    MMD - snow's horrible when it gets to that grey/brown colour isn't it? We're due for a top up this weekend!

    The idiot Gardener - welcome! She may be cruel but you'll also find she brings lots of nice surprises. Keep up with the gardening!

    TS - I'm still confined to indoors because of a really bad cold, so I haven't been let out to play yet. I'm hoping to catch up with you all next week...

    Susan and Helen - thank you :)

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  21. I remmber that winter. I was managing an uneplyment benefit office. I'd bought some plants to jolly up the miserable 30s building and John decided to bring them to the office for me, walking all the way. Unfortunately that was the day the temperature was equivalent to minus 11 with wind chill. Of course, the plants all died.

    Pleased to say that he has since learned his lesson!

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  22. Colleen - I had a temporary CA job in an unemployment office the summer before I moved to Durham. I went from signing on one day to signing others on a couple of days later! My Durham post was a direct entrant EO one - at my panel interview I was aked a question about Bristish Leyland closing down and if I managed the local UB office what I'd do about it. I made a few suggestions, then the interviewer made a few of his own, which I said were rubbish giving reasons why. I found out when I returned to the office that he was the UB Area Manager and his suggestions were the actions he'd implemented when a major local employer went bust! I therefore was convinced I'd completely failed the interview and would never get a permanent job!

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