Friday, January 25, 2013


My memory is not all that great, but my recollections go back to the early 1940s, and I wasn’t yet in my teens. I lived in Somerset where there were significant snowfalls most winters. I distinctly remember the winter of 1944-45 when there were prolonged and heavy falls of snow. For the children of the village it was a magical wonderland.
Several of us made sledges from the backs of old kitchen chairs. When we weren’t at school we would take our sledges to the nearest hill and repeatedly slide them down the same tracks to compact the snow for achieving faster runs. At the bottom of the hill there was a sharp upturn before a thorny hedge within which there was a barbed wire fence! As we vied with one another to make the most spectacular run, speeds got faster and faster, and stopping before entering the hedge was crucial.
There were two ways of riding our toboggans: sitting, while facing forwards and legs astraddle for steering and stopping, or headfirst, lying on our stomach and with feet trailing behind for steering and stopping. The inevitable happened; I failed to stop and became embedded in the prickly hedge. Worse still, I gashed on my hand on the barbed wire. Blood drops on the snow left an indelible track leading to my house. There my mother dressed the wound with lint and a bandage. I thawed my hands and they regained their feeling. It was a painful experience. The next day I was back on my sledge, a little wiser. I perfected a technique off rolling off the sledge before reaching the bottom of the hill.
The most infamous winter was that of 1962-63 when I set up home in the suberbs of Exeter. My house was on the side of a hill overlooking a play park and a school. The blizzards of January and February created a scene of blinding whiteness. The view from my lounge was spectacular. Snowdrifts were up to waist level, and elsewhere the snow was 2 feet deep or more, deep enough to cover the tops of Wellington boots. I have a recollection of my brother who was lodging with me, setting off for work. He never made it. Half-an-hour later he returned, looking like the abominable snowman.
More recently in 2011, here in South East England, there were heavy falls of snow, but nowhere as bad as Exeter in 1963, and now, once again snow has brought the Country to a standstill. My part of Essex has faired better than most, by only having a light fall of snow, amounting to no more than 6 to 7 centimetres. Tonight the forecast is for more, but by early morning it should cease, and sunshine will bring a thaw.
History of British Winters

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