It’s been rather a strange week, and I’m glad that it’s nearly over; work-wise at least. The over-hyped “Beast from the East” caused some disruption in this neck of the woods but like the model employee I am, I managed to make it in to work everyday; even if the drive in was as times, “interesting”.
We of course, don’t really do snow in the UK, and people tend to panic at the sight of the first snowflake. I accept it has been cold, and on my drive into work on Wednesday morning I was surprised to see the car temperature gauge showing an outside temperature of minus 11º C. This has to be the coldest I’ve experienced here in the UK.
I was left with little choice but to drive in, as although the village where I work has its own railway station, there were no trains running. This wouldn’t have happened back in the days of British Rail, I hear you say, and this is probably correct, but the simple truth is that here in the south, the antiquated “third-rail” system, originally installed by the Southern Railway back in the 1930’s, is extremely vulnerable to icing up, and associated loss of power. The trains cannot run without “juice”; end of!
Being of a certain age I am old enough to remember the winter of 1962/63; the “Big Freeze”as it later became known. It started snowing on Boxing Day (I can still recall looking out our front room window and seeing it coming down), and a few days later, the country was covered by a blanket of snow, with drifts several feet deep in places. Temperatures remained below freezing throughout January, and the following month there was more heavy snow. The thaw didn’t set in until early March.
Now I don’t wish to sound like the Four Yorkshiremen from the famous Monty Python sketch, but my sister and I went to school every day. There were no sissy “snow days” for us, where we couldn’t be driven into school; instead we walked in, through the snow and ice, me still wearing short trousers and my sister a school skirt.
The school playground was a sheet of ice, which meant we could make some fantastic slides. From memory, there were no broken bones, just the odd bruised bottom! Every so often the school caretaker would sprinkle a shovel full of ashes, from the coal-fired boiler, onto the ice, just to create a few less slippery walkways (probably for the benefit of the staff), and oh, before I forget the toilets were all outside; girls as well as boys!
Perhaps because we didn’t know any better, but I don’t recall being cold, miserable or in any way deprived during that memorable winter; instead we just got on with it. When the thaw did finally start to set in, us boys were given a shovel or a broom each and set to work helping the caretaker break up the ice on the playground and move it down into a great pile in the bottom right hand corner.
There have been other cold winters, of course, the last really significant one being in 1987, when parts of Kent were literally cut off for days on end, and the army had to use helicopters to bring in supplies to some remote villages.
So I look back on the past four days with a mixture of bewilderment and amusement. The media have had a field day, and we have seen reporter after reporter standing out either in a snowy landscape or next to a road littered with abandoned vehicles, carrying on as though the world had come to an end.
In a weeks or so’s time I fully expect everything to be back to normal, but before I treat you to some snow pictures, I want to end by reporting there has been one casualty of the snow and that is tomorrow’s (Saturday's) visit by West Kent CAMRA to Old Dairy Brewery down in Tenterden.
I wasn’t booked to go, as I went last year, but it is a shame for those looking forward to sampling some excellent Old Dairy beers at source, and also to our social secretary who put in the work to organise the trip.
So scattered throughout this post are the snow photos, most of which were taken several years ago during previous snowy winters. Enjoy!