Winter Wonderland

At the beginning of this month two feet of snow fell and we were stranded. The snow very quickly thawed just enough to refreeze into ice, and it became too dangerous to drive anywhere (I know; I tried) and pretty hazardous to walk. Our usual fifteen-minute walk to school (once the school reopened after being closed for the first week) took around twice that as we shuffled carefully across the uneven ice-sheet, with much comic flailing and many spectacular falls. On the plus side, though, the children made a great snowman, two igloos, and put the snow they didn't use on these magnificent creations down each other's backs, into each other's wellies, and all over my lounge carpet. They took photographs of themselves clutching five-foot icicles, and insisted on putting said icicles in the chest freezer. (Not a problem, since the freezer was empty.)

It thawed; we and the rest of the population of our village (15,900 people) went to Sainsbury's and replaced all the things we had been forced to eat during the previous two weeks (a tin of lentil and carrot soup with a sell-by date of March 2006, spam, loose prawns from the dusty bottom of the chest freezer, icicles) and now it has snowed again.

It has now snowed again, but this time we are fully stocked and prepared to batton down the hatches and go nowhere until Spring.

This snow is different from the last batch. I tried - and failed - to build a snowman, because the snow is strangely dry and powdery; snowballs just fell apart in my hopeful hands, and I couldn't get a good large rolled ball going for my snowman's body at all. Conversely, it was really easy to shovel it all off the driveway, and when it compacted under the considerable weight of my feet it didn't squish into a treacherous ice puddle, but crunched rather pleasantly and then just, sort of, vanished. I'm starting to see why Eskimos are reputed to have so many words for snow. This snow is bizarrely dry given that we live on a humid little island and are used to the wet, slushy stuff.

An old schoolfriend of mine from Laramie, Wyoming is visiting, and despite being British herself is amazed at how pathetic we Brits are in the face of this strange white stuff which occasionally falls from the sky. She hasn't let traffic reports urging motorists not to travel unless their journey (for example, to hospital to give birth) is absolutely necessary, and has merrily taken her husband and six children round the M25 to Hampton Court and Bluewater (on the last Saturday before Christmas) as Hubby Dearest and I shook her heads and wondered at such madness.

We Brits are rubbish at snow. We see it so rarely that we forget what to do with it when it appears. I recently received an email from national "autocentre" chain Halfords urging me to get my car ready for the cold weather and suggesting several items I might want to buy for the purpose. (It overlooked the facts that the horse has bolted, and that I don't have a car.) These items included a windscreen scraper, anti-freeze, and a tartan rug to keep back-seat passengers warm. Entirely absent was anything which might actually make it possible to use your car in the snow, such as snow tyres, sacks of salt or snow chains.

So it looks as though we're in for a white Christmas, and I know for a fact that the last time a snowflake fell in Britain on Christmas day was in 1995, because it was my eldest daughter's first Christmas. Apparently Laramie has about six feet of snow for six months of the year.

But as pretty as the stuff is, and as appropriate at it might be given the season, I'm still not too fond of it, either the wet stuff that turns into terrifying ice or the powdery stuff that defies all attempts to sculpt it into more interesting forms. That's why I'm ticking off the years until I can spend my winters in Florida, and like every other Brit, forget all about the possibility of snow.

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