Tuesday, 15 January 2013


A proper fall of snow really shows how far some of us have come as adults from the wonder of childhood.  The playground echoes to cries of “Stop it, you’ll get soaked,” “Come and stand here or you’ll fall,” “Don’t do that,” and “Ugh, don’t eat it, that’s disgusting!”

I don’t want to talk about it from an adult’s point of view, in resigned tones and pseudo media-speak.  “Traffic chaos, misery for drivers, worst freeze for 20 years, will be worse tomorrow, more forecast overnight, a nightmare journey”…  I want to play in it.

Just stop and think about it.  Really think.

It’s water.  Falling from the sky in soft white lumps.  It changes the whole world, making familiar streets, gardens and fields somehow different.  Stop and look, just for a second.  It’s magic.

You can make footprints in it.  You can follow the footprints of others and find out where they were going – it tells a story.  A single line of tracks across an open field tells of the solitary fox who emerged at dawn from his shelter in the hedge and set off in search of a meal.  Footprints across the front lawn show that he postman took a short cut from next door again.

You can roll in it.  This is even more fun when someone has just told you not to.  You can throw it at your friends, your enemies, your parents, the neighbour’s cat.  You can draw on brick walls with it.  You can make fantastic sculptures with it (even if most of us make do with a lopsided and decidedly lumpy snowman).  Sometimes, as today, it comes with dense white fog which adds a spooky touch to the white world and leaves glittery sparkles on your hair.  If it’s really cold, they will freeze and look like diamonds.  Isn’t that amazing?

When mum isn’t looking, you can eat it and feel it disappear in your mouth leaving a cold nothingness.  You can catch the falling flakes on your tongue.  You can lie on your back and make snow angels, or just lie still and get lost in the confusion of snowflakes as they whirl down towards your face.  You can go sledging, shrieking hysterically as someone pulls you along, screaming with delight as you slide down a hill, and giggling as you fall off and get a face full of cold which always, always finds its way down your neck.

And then, when you can’t feel your toes, your fingers are sore and your nose is red and dripping, you can stumble inside, strip off all your many layers and leave them in a melting heap on the floor and thaw yourself out with hot chocolate and biscuits.  So memories are made.

Even as an adult, nothing stops you doing any of those things except your own image of adulthood.  Even if you have to scrape the car, negotiate the traffic chaos and fog and go to work, if you’re lucky the snow will still be there when you come home.  In the dark, snow somehow manages to glow, and can be even more fun when you think nobody can see you.

My son (at the grand old age of seven and a quarter) says I will never grow up.  He means this as a true compliment.  I’m doing my best to prove him right.  Snowball fight, anyone?

PS. Do you need a guide to snow play?

1.     Be prepared.  Wear warm, waterproof clothes.  The only footwear which really does the job in snow is a pair of wellies.  Beg, borrow or buy them.  Make your children wear them too.  That way, they will be the ones making snow angels on the way home from school while you look on (or even better, join in.)  That way, you will not be the parent who, on seeing my boy lying down in the snow, looked horrified and hurried his daughters past*.  You will be the parent who, like me, knew the child was making memories as well as prints in the snow, and would be warm and dry in his waterproof trousers.

2.     Walk somewhere.  Not somewhere you have to get to quickly.  Not somewhere you don’t want to go to, like the dentist.  Take a gentle walk in the snow and see what you can see.  This morning, in amongst the footprints of dogs and their owners, I saw a single line of fox tracks disappearing across a field.

3.     Appreciate what you have.  Look at the beauty that lumps of frozen water falling from the sky has made all around you.  And be thankful for the warm house you have to go home to.

*  Hurried his children past, while saying to his daughters, “See, that’s what boys are like.”  I feel a whole other blog post coming on based on that remark!

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