I have a confession: I really don’t like snow. Well, maybe that’s not quite true… I don’t mind looking at it through the window, while wrapped in a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate. Or driving on a clear road, with white trees either side as though I’m heading into Narnia. But having to walk through slushy, slippery snow while my hands, toes and face go numb is not one of my favourite things to do.
Where we live, the schools have to close if there’s more than an inch or two, because the teachers can’t get down the country lanes. We often end up stuck in the village, which is fine for a couple of days, but while the idea of being snowed in can seem romantic and cosy, the reality can be very different…
My worst ‘snow-in’ happened when I was eleven, during the ‘Big Snow’ of 1987. I will never forget it! Young Adult novels about nuclear holocausts were filling up my local library, and to my overactive imagination I fancied myself in a similar situation as I shovelled snow off the drive because frozen pipes meant no running water.
For a few days we had a bucket of melted snow in the bathroom for flushing the toilet, and even, under my Mum’s firm instructions, washing my face. I remember looking the bits of pine cone floating in it and wondering how on earth this was going to make me cleaner than before I started. This was well before bottled water was commonplace, but thankfully we managed to find some before the shops sold out so we didn’t have to drink tea with twigs and dirt for added flavour.
We also had no power for several days. My family spent our time reading, or huddled around the battery operated radio playing cards by candlelight, my brothers and I arguing over who got the best torch at bedtime. My dad, a Queen’s Scout, dug out his ancient camping stove and we heated up water, soup or tins of beans and sausages.
The gas was restored before the electricity, at which point we could toast bread and crumpets on our fire. One evening we all trooped round for dinner with a neighbour who had a gas oven. When my mum got a new kitchen a few years later, she made sure we had one too in case it ever happened again.
As a child I enjoyed the novelty for the first day or so, but it must have been so stressful for my parents. However, once school returned, I discovered that we had it easy. One of my friends in a nearby village had no electricity for three weeks.
I’m happy to say that in Let in Snow, when Bea and Henry find themselves snowed in while trying to get home for Christmas, despite sharing some of the logistical challenges I encountered during the Big Snow, they end up rather cosy. Maybe getting snowed in can be romantic after all…