So here in the UK, we’ve had our annual bout of snow. As always, we’ve embarrassingly folded as a nation and come to a standstill, seemingly learning no lessons from previous years. Talking of lessons, schools were closed and so I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed my three day weekend! I think I must be getting old though, I have thrown a minimal amount of snowballs, and prioritised housework, marking & other important jobs over sledging and snowman building. Maybe when I have children, all this will change!
Growing up, we never really had snow. I can remember it as a young child, once as a teenager when a friend had to stay over inadvertently, and the day after I got married. Now it seems to be a bit more regular, as the ever increasing extremism of the UK weather system affects British life (ask a geographer why, I don’t have a clue!).
But as we sat as a family around the dinner table today, my mother was telling stories of the snow of ’63. She was nine at the time, and it sounded like the snow of 2013 doesn’t even come close to that year!
In British history, snow repeats on a big scale what it does on a micro level today- come very quickly, not stick around for long, and then disappear for a while again. Back in the time of Elizabeth I, they didn’t think that much of snow, until what became known as the “little Ice Age” of 1564-65- the longest and harshest winter they had ever seen. Europe experienced cold, harsh winters for the next 150 years.
The late eighteenth & early nineteenth centuries also saw incredibly harsh winters, which when you consider the poverty-stricken existence many faced during the Industrial Revolution, is a troubling thought. In fact, Charles Dickens experienced six “white Christmases” in the first nine years of his life, perhaps explaining the wintry scenes we find in Oliver Twist & a Christmas Carol. In more recent times, deep-frozen winters have been seen in Britain in 1940, 1947, the aforementioned 1963 and 1979 also.
All things considered, snow is something that British culture is still familiarising itself with once again. The peaks & troughs that the British weather system experiences means that when the cold years arrive, life has changed dramatically, and society learns all over again just how to cope with such severe weather, and that fact is wonderful, because ultimately, it excuses us from ever getting it right!