34. It’snow better than it ought to be.*

It’s been snowing here on Tyneside, in February 2018, like nothing I have seen since I lived on the fringes of Dartmoor. True it was worse there in 1979, but that was exceptional even for Dartmoor.

People of my age seemed to think it was much worse in ‘the old days’. “It snowed every winter and was much deeper then”. But was it?

When I was at ‘junior’ school (they call them ‘primary’ now) we had an excursion to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland (scene of Harry Potter films). I distinctly remember entering via a huge ‘armoury’ where pikes, spears and guns of all shapes and sizes had been artfully arranged in ‘fans’ and circles all over the walls.

Many years later I visited as a ‘grown-up’ and was so disappointed by the small size, not only of the display, but also of the room itself. Indeed I asked the custodian whether I was in the right place; he assured me that I was.

It got me thinking how many things seem smaller than they were. I’m not thinking here of Mars Bars or the clothes in my wardrobe, but buildings and streets and parks visited when I (and you dear reader) were smaller.

Did it snow every year? Probably not.  I made reference to first-footing in the snow in article#26, but I doubt it snowed every year. I do remember  sledging on Tynemouth Golf Course, as they did this week, but I only remember doing it a couple of times. Dads made wooden sledges with metal runners for their sons! Girls didn’t sledge back then (or play football) BTW where did all those plastic sledges spring from last week?

Was the snow deeper? I doubt it. True it came over my wellies, but then they were little wellies. Perhaps, because there were fewer cars, the snow lay piled up on the side of the road for much longer and it just seemed worse than it was.

Perhaps because it happens less often, we, the news hungry TV viewers, make such a fuss. Schools never closed; councils coped with snow ploughs attached to their lorries, even in side-streets. Gritters were open lorries manned by men with shovels casting salt on a rapidly spinning ‘fan-blade’. Eat your heart out health and safety.

Everything now has to have a ‘title’. This was The Beast from The East because it originated in Siberia. Windy days have names like Henry or Gladys. Why? Weather forecasts have improved beyond measure because of satellites and computers so why weren’t we better prepared when we knew so far in advance?

* The title is a quote from Nora Batty in Last of The Summer Wine (BBC TV) about someone who is “No better than she ought to be”. Which I don’t understand, but strangely I know what it means.



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