For those of you used to snow (and lots of it) and cold each year, you probably look at us Brits and laugh at our inability to cope when a harsh winter hits. But we’ve just got through the 2nd (or 3rd depending on where you live) bout of snow, and some ultra-cold weather (for us). It meant snow days for many with schools shutting all over the country (and one snow day for us), and chaos on the roads.
The Beast from the East
The Beast from the East arrived on the last day of meterological winter – a cold blast coming from Russia, with Storm Emma from Portugal hitting at the same time. It reminded me of the snow we had way back in 1986, with huge drifts. This time, although it snowed for 3 days, we didn’t have much snow settling because it was really powdery and just blew all over the place. But the wind was terrible meaning it drifted in amazing sculptured shapes in the fields, and drifts closing several of the roads near us. Even the main road had drifts across much of it in places by day 3.
I’m not a snow fan. It might look pretty (and you get great photos in it), but it’s inconvenient. Especially when you live in the middle of nowhere where they don’t generally grit the roads. 7 miles from town, a 2 mile walk to the nearest shop (which even normally doesn’t have full shelves) which is an hour walk back up hill even without snow. And it’s dangerous walking on roads or verges with cars getting caught in drifts.
Thankfully, the snow cover was minimal on Wed and Thursday (just on and off showers all day), so N’s school was open as normal and I went in to work on day 1. My work prefers people to work from home when the weather is looking bad, so I worked from home on day 2 in case school ended up shutting early.
No oil delivery
Unfortunately our oil ran out on day 2 of the ultra-cold so that meant no Aga and no central heating. We still had hot water, but the house was about 12.5C apart from the living room and luckily we have an electric cooker too. I’m so relieved we have a wood burner, but felt for our lodgers who didn’t in their side of the house. We found an old electric heater for them but I’m not sure it helped better than wearing 4 layers and sitting in a blanket. We’d had an oil delivery due, so I don’t know whether the tankers just weren’t going out, or they didn’t have enough to go round for everyone who panicked and topped up ahead of our delivery meaning not enough to go round.
Evenings were fine in front of the wood burner, and it was fine going to bed as normal. But N decided he was wearing pyjamas, onesie and socks to bed, as well as adding a blanket atop his duvet. I’m surprised he didn’t wake in a sweat!
School tried to stay open but when they struggled to get in via the main road, and realised it wasn’t even safe trying to walk children down the main hill into the village, it closed on Day 3 when we had most snow. N was really excited when he heard. He’s really good about keeping out the way when I need to work from home, and when it’s snows he’s happy to go outside as much as possible.
I can’t believe how long he went out for though. The wind was bitter, and in -4-6C I thought he was nuts. 2 hats, gloves, long and short sleeved t-shirt, jumper, overalls, and waterproof trousers, plus his thick shooting jacket and he was happy as anything out there. Just his poor rosy red cheeks from the wind.
Because I’d known the snow was coming, I did do a food shop to cover us in case we were snowed in and also couldn’t get away for the weekend to the christening we were due at. But milk was getting low thanks to all of N’s requests for hot chocolate whenever he came in from the cold.
Saturday was better for N to play out in. Swimming was cancelled because it’s in a village and the roads were still not good by then. And the wind died down so it was warmer for enjoying the snow. N was straight out at 8.30 before I headed out to take some photos and help him build an igloo.
His snowman was a good creation, but igloo building was beyond my toes. My wellies aren’t great but they’re the only ones I could find at the time to fit my calves. So cold toes happened too fast and I left him to it. When I gave up, a couple of hours later I heard N chatting away, looked out the window to see he’d got the help of one of the farm’s lodgers in building his igloo. They had a much better technique going and although it was roofless, it had a seat with armrests in it and N was really chuffed.
The dogs really enjoyed playing alongside him too. The labrador turns into a pup again when it snows and the puppy loved jumping in the drifts and rolling around.
What we learnt after our snow day
I still don’t really like snow. It’s fine if you don’t need to go anywhere, but I get cabin fever being stuck at home for a day, and being in the sticks it takes longer for everything to melt and get back to normal.
Farmers don’t like snow. It makes normal work harder – water pipes and troughs get frozen so they have to defrost them, the food mixer wagon was also frozen this year, and they spend a lot of time pulling cars out of hedges and snow drifts.
If you have a tractor you’re popular with the villagers – even the ones who usually moan about mud on the road, split hay on the road, and having to move cars parked on the road so tractors can get through villages. But pulling cars out doesn’t always get you a thanks.
You can get extra sponsorship – our nephew pulled a few cars out and got given money towards his Three Peaks Challenge.
A chest freezer with random Tupperware containers of leftovers is great.
You will struggle to ration milk when hot chocolates are needed regularly. (unless you buy milk to freeze just in case)
The cold in the house gets manageable by wearing 4 layers, finding blankets keeping to a couple of rooms. Having a wood burner or spare couple of electric heaters helps.
Always have bottled water available just in case – we were lucky with our pipes, but friends weren’t. They had to melt snow to cook and flush toilets with.
If possible always take work laptops home each evening if there’s any risk of snow.
Cabin fever kicks in pretty quickly. Have plenty of things to do and read lots if you have the chance.
We get obsessed with watching the weather forecasts and reports on television. The snow might have gone, but I’m still watching all the bad weather documentaries I can. The geographer in me is still alive, even though I’m nearly 20 years out of university!
I have some amazing photos of N in the snow, but as usual they can’t be shared, so you’re stuck with some white out views instead.
How was your experience of the Beast from the East? What are the winters like where you are?