(While none of this will be new to those of you who have lived in snow before, it might amuse you to see which bits weird me out the most. Apologies for the obviousness of some of this, but that is partially the point of these posts, to reveal things that are obvious to the natives)
Firstly, my history with snow: when I was 9 we went to the Victorian snow fields in Australia. It snowed a little bit when I was in the UK in April 2008, but it had melted by midday. That’s it. So snow is quite alien to me, and hence I don’t know how to deal with it, or what might happen when it snows, what the different sorts of snows mean, and when to be careful. Quite scary for Little Miss Capable and Independent.
So, day 1 of snow, on 16 December was quite confronting. Also, it was the first real wake-up call that my life had substantially changed. Very much a ‘Toto I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore’ moment. Up to this point my subconcious hadn’t really absorbed that it was somewhere different. Most of the things I experienced could have occurred in Australia, somewhere, sort of. Snow in an urban environment? Nuh huh! Just weird. So I freaked a bit. It didn’t help that I had a colleague sitting next to me panicing about being snowed in, as they were in February. We kept ratcheting up each other’s anxiety levels.
I’m currently sitting on the 4th floor of the building I work in. It overlooks the Thames and the Olympic Park (in the far distance there’s some cranes, but everyone points it out to you on your first day) and there’s snow falling from the sky. Which is weird. Although this snow is less weird, to me, than the stuff we had on 16 December. Simply because it’s mostly falling, like rain. Which leads me to my first weird thing about snow:
Sometimes it blows back up into the sky. Whirling clouds of snow. Weather is not supposed to go UP! It’s supposed to fall, preferably in heavy drops so you know it’s actually raining, not this wafting all around you wet stuff that snow can be. That was weird, very alien.
I was ill for a couple of days following the first day of snow, which meant I avoided going to work in the first heavy snow of the year. In the days before we went to Devon for Christmas I learnt how to walk in snow, the dangers of packed snow and how to avoid ice, why there are grit boxes all over the place and the difference gritting makes (no snow!), that it’s mostly OK to drive in snow. I gained some confidence that living in snow is not all bad (as opposed to previous experiences of visiting snow, when I knew I was going home in a couple of days).
Snow falls silently. Not like most weather where you hear it and know what you’re in for the next morning. You wake up to a blanket of snow (like I did this morning) and have to adjust.
Snow also makes everything quieter, muffles everyday sounds. Except walking, which goes crunch, crunch, crunch, sliiiiide, stamp, stamp, stamp. Going outside in snow in the middle of the day is fun. Walking to work is less fun. Although if you’re one of the first people to walk up your street after a snowfall, then it’s quite pretty.
Snow means preparation, in case of potential heavy falls. Where do you put your car if you need to get out in the morning? (as my friend Poki had to determine last night as he had a flight this morning and lives at the top of a hill). Will your transport be cancelled meaning you can’t get to work? (I took files home last night in case I needed to work from home). You keep an eye on transport sites in case it closes down and you can’t get home.
Snow doesn’t go away when the clouds disappear. This is perhaps the strangest thing, conceptually, for me. I have no idea when snow will disappear and things will go back to normal. Even two days of sun won’t necessarily make it melt, if it’s thick enough. Although the trodden down packed ice is more likely to have re-frozen and be very slippery.
Finally snow is delicately pretty, which I wasn’t expecting either. So while snow is weird and a bit disturbing and I don’t quite yet trust it, I’m sure that soon I will like it quite a bit. An edge of that appeared this morning. I was enchanted by the morning walk, looking at the snow on the walls and the footprints that cats or squirrels have made in the new snow.