Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Once you start talking about winter one's mind turns back to winters past. Yesterday evening Don and I were talking just thus and recalling many bad or memorable winter escapades. He was in charge of all the vehicles for Westmorland ( later to be Cumbria ) and was relating tales of passes blocked, snow ploughs sent out and long sessions of keeping the roads passable. He remembered the bad winter of 1947.....and told me how he and his family caught the bus from Preston to Bay Horse ( the old A6 was passable ) then literally walking over fields, fences , gates ( the snow covered them ) and going to the aid of some people they knew in a farm near Quernmore. I also recall my father telling me of that same winter and how he walked from the RAF camp to a local dance following the telegraph pole tops all the way. I thought how crazy to go out in such conditions...but it seems that they just got on with it !
    Of course my childhood in Aberdeen was peppered with such tales too. We lived in a suburb ( the last road in fact before the farmland) in a high position , so we copped it for all the bad weather. It wasn't unusual that buses couldn't make the Granite Hill road ; milk deliveries were taken round by the 'milk ladies' on pulled sledges, the local Co-op didn't get supplies and roads remained blocked as the snow ploughs couldn't get up to either ! Yet we never missed school ! The primary school was about one and half miles away and we all met up and happily trudged our way there ( or it seems that we were happy ! ) . Of course we spent the morning in wet boots, wet socks and gloves steaming round the stove, for my classroom was in a 'hut' hastily erected following the war and the influx of youngsters from the growing suburbs. The secondary school was three miles away ! So that was an early morning cold walk in duffle coat and overboots ( how I hated those! ) The teachers always seemed to make it too, although I recall that my teacher lived in a farm. Then there was the opportunity to skate outdoors on the Duthie Park model boat pond- - now that was great ! I'd take a sweeping brush and lots of warm clothing and we'd set off on the bus to the other side of Aberdeen for this once in a blue moon opportunity. Such fun, laughter and rosy cheeks ! The hiking club didn't meet weekly in the winter but we'd have an occasional trip out or weekend away, where winter mountain skills were honed, based in very chilly Youth hostels !!
      My first job was in Kingussie near the Cairngorms and initially I stayed in 'digs'. Winter nights the old A9 road would become quiet and I'd walk down to look both ways at a silent, white empty road....huge soft snowflakes slowly drifting down. The school was sometimes closed as the AA and shepherds, lairds and others would keep the school informed of conditions in far reaching places , so that their children could be brought home safely. I didn't drive then and relied on the school 'taxi ' to ferry me home with some farmer's children to the little cottage that I moved into when I married. Once a Land Rover recovery vehicle came for us and we squeezed in the cab....the snow up to the top of the wheel arches, the wipers frozen, no heater...just making it back. My husband being stranded in the village for 5 days and me in the cottage.
    I though when I moved to the outskirts of Oxford that winters would be kinder. In fact they weren't . We lived in a prefab at the foot of the Chilterns and the cold, frosty conditions were very nasty and we were often blocked in by snow. Ice on the inside of the windows ( of course ) fire built up with logs, paraffin heaters on in the hall and kitchen, icicles on the inside of the front door ......Things improved when I moved to Abingdon and then if the snow was bad I could at least walk to work.
      On my second marriage we thought it a good idea to move to the north of Scotland to a large clifftop house....wonderful views over the Moray Firth...but by jove the cold winds !! My husband experienced snow on his birthday (22nd Oct) for the first time in his life . We'd then do something crazy and drive up to the foot of Cairngorm, walk so far, and touch the snow ! Wearing two layers of trousers, and all the warm clothing we could find. My husband never came to terms with the winters up there and so it was that we found ourselves on the Fylde Coast. He said it was " the difference between an overcoat and a jacket ".
     I could go on and on about this season. I much prefer freezing conditions to the wet though and still get excited at crisp snowflakes falling from the sky, moonlit frosty nights and open fires.....
    The photo this week is the view from our house in Buckie, taken on the 2nd March 2006, just before we moved to the Fylde .

This poem is the first that I wrote -- or at least the first that I wrote down. Written in January 1965 !

View From My Window

When I look from my window I can see
The snow lying on every far away hill and tree;
But the grass peeps through the cold,
The sky blue and the sunset gold.

The wispy rain-laden clouds fly past
To make room for the night coming fast.
Soon Jack Frost will spread his chilly hand
Over the grass, trees - all over the land.

The men plod wearily homewards,
And the birds fly fleetingly downwards
To their nests in the loft.
The chimneys are still smoking -
But here's the rain ! It's soaking
Everything. And tomorrow, when I wake
The snow will all be gone.



Steve Rowland said...

Ah yes, brushing the snow off your archives ;-)
Thanks Kath, most enjoyable reading.