Yesterday as we were having little flutters of snow, a Siberian blast and menacing skies I wrote about snow as I remembered it, walking to school when the buses stopped, the family taking eight hours to get to Sheffield from Cambridge in an unheated Austin A35… I think that was the time when we sat down for a nice meal with our aunty, uncle and cousins, some ordinary pre-Christmas lunch, probably shepherd’s pie or stew and dumplings, and my uncle opened a bottle of wine, poured it, took a sip and gave a gasp of horror – he had inadvertently opened the best and most expensive wine he had and it wasn’t that he didn’t want to share it, but the meal, he explained wasn’t worthy of it!
Last night it snowed more, and we woke with our windows dappled with frozen rain and everywhere inches deep in the white stuff. There were red alerts out everywhere and trains and buses cancelled. There have been terrible scenes shown on the news of near misses as vehicles slipped and skidded, pile-ups where vehicles slipped and skidded and didn’t miss – in some cases driving far too fast, and as we had to go out for various essential reasons we progressed very slowly and cautiously.
When I was first living in Manchester we had snow much more frequently and we were equipped and ready for it, and also to be honest, I think we were a bit tougher then! I’d walked to school when a child, and in my first year at the Polytechnic there were quite a few days when buses didn’t run and we walked in which was about five miles. I wore maxi skirts and coats in those days and by the time I got to college the hems were absolutely sodden.
After the first year I had a friend with a car so waiting for buses was no longer a problem. He lived in Leeds and we had gone over for the weekend, a whole gang of us, and driving back over the Pennines… I can’t remember now whether it was on the motorway or not, but I remember feeling quite nervous despite the good driver, because the snow whirling towards us was almost blinding, especially in the headlights. It really takes a particular skill to drive in snow, and these days we don’t have snow often enough to practice!
Most schools are closed today – long gone are the days which I mentioned before, when children in north Lancashire and Yorkshire would walk along the tops of the dry-stone walls when the lanes were impassable. As kids I don’t ever remember being kept at home or told to stay at home for snow, although occasionally at my secondary school it closed early because lots of girls lived out in the country and it would have been impossible for them to get home otherwise. As a teacher in the last few years when it did become a thing to send children home and close the school, I think we were almost as excited and delighted as the pupils!
I heard a rather disturbing thing about school closures… apparently, in these days where schools are judged, and rated, and inspected so rigorously with results and performance and met targets and statistics seeming to be more important than giving the students a full, rounded and enhanced education (broad and balanced used to be the by-words) – if a school stays open and not many children come in because of the snow, their attendance figures will be low; if the school closes then there are no figures so their attendance on paper looks better… Apparently, and correct me please if I am wrong, it seems head teachers sometimes prefer to close school for reasons other than the safety of their pupils…