An age-old question. One that has taken on a certain magnitude in the decades of my lifetime. In my lifetime it has indeed become a mythical substance, rare, elusive, fleeting. So much so that the hint of its presence has grown ups fantasising and hanging out of windows with a wistful air. And when it does come, oh the teeth are sent a chattering. The whole palette of human emotions are bestirred; childlike whimsy, pessimistic panic, imaginative glee, forlorn doubt.
I was born after the last of the great winters. 1981. (Yes, I’m that young). I can remember two winters of snow, one in earlier years where I can recall tracking the unusual shoe patterns of a certain friend and the other later, in probably the ’95/’96 winter, February time as always, where roads became impassable and children threw snowballs at school. At me.
Maybe there were others too, less memorable, where the roads and gardens turned into a disgusting brown hued slush, making a cola flavoured ice slush drink look attractive. It never lasted long, never stayed. Rarely settled.
There were other winters where of course there was a snowing. Snowing has happened probably most winters. There’s always huge debate, will it or won’t it? Wise oracles stare at the clouds and take the temperature with the back of their hands. Not cold enough, even too cold for snow. And when those flakes start falling? The magic hits and you call up all your friends and tell them it’s snowing. You talk about it for weeks after. You’ve seen a snowflake.
This snowing is probably nothing exactly to write home about. It falls like the ashes from your neighbour’s bonfire, soft and floating. No purpose and disappearing within moments. But this is the snowing of my life.
That all changed three years ago. (The weather and my entire life). It snowed. There was snow. For the first time in my life, I made a snowman and slipped down a hill on a tea-tray. (Yes, tea-traying is an official winter sport here). The next year it returned, thicker, heavier, longer.
The kind of snow that closes infrastructure and induces panic. (OK, even a flake or two does that). Reports that the country was now stocked with the wrong kind of grit. Shops started stocking proper sledges, flimsy plastic moulded sheets which made me prefer the solidity of a Swedish-made oversized tea-tray. Panic buying, snow means the end of the world. It’s never quite as bad as we expect however. We all survived.
The coldest weather is always February here. The most likely weekend to bring on the snow is the last one in January. It happened both those record years.
Although in 2010/11, the snow hit uncharacteristically early in November and then turned into a glacier for the next two months. That was cold. That was different. We spent the winter dreading what new horrors February could bring. But winter had burnt out its Siberian freeze by then.
This winter has been mild. Ridiculously mild. In December we were having double figure nights. Seriously. I mean, we’ve recorded 5° nights camping in June. June, yes, supposedly summer. When people start to complain about the cold, I remind them to actually go and check a thermometer. It may be colder but it’s not cold. I’ve had to resist the urge to start bundling up in layers, reminding myself that at some point the real winter will kick in with a vengeance. And attempting to explain to my winter-phobic mother that there is no need for us to turn the heating on when we’re still wandering around the house in jeans, top or light jumper and just one pair of socks. Not that we can afford the heating anyway.
But I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been the frenzied obsession with the white stuff possibility this year. I think we’ve ceased doubting after the last three winters. It can snow. It has snowed. For the time being, we have been sated and can face the weather, whatever it brings, without the hype of children promised sweeties.
And so the question: will it or won’t it?
This morning it’s been snowing. Remember, snowing. Soft flakes drizzling from the heavens like ashes. Nothing to write home about.
But who knows, there’s still many days before we can think to spring. (And I’ve known a snowing in June before). There may yet be a winter. Something else for us to complain about, I’m sure.