The joy of a snowy day. Oh and the misery…

21 Jan 2013 @ 12.20 pm
| News
The model of the Minster outside the real thing is engulfed in a snowdrift. Photographs: YorkMix

giuliana-alcantara-headshotThe white stuff thrills Giuliana Alcantara – until she remembers the downside

Snow! Snow! Snow! It’s been a whole day of the white fluff falling magically from the sky and my excitement hasn’t subdued yet.

Snow! Sledge rides down slippery slopes, late-night walks along the Ouse, and with some luck, baby deer sightings in starry, full-mooned nights.

Snow! The pleasure of being the first to sink a boot into the virgin, white blanket, snowball fights under the clear, sunny sky, the soft crunching noise of the tiny crystals under my feet.

Snow! Snowman building and snowdog building and the hunt for a scarf and a tie and striped socks to serve as ears. Simple, childish pleasures – that’s the joy of a snowy day for me.


But as I sit at my desk in London, looking out of the window at the flurry of white and think of closing my laptop and heading to the North early, I slowly awake to the reality of disruption. I remember that one time in the winter of 2010 when it took me six hours to travel from York to London, and I remember freezing my toes waiting for the replacement bus. The very thought of facing delayed, cancelled, inadequately heated trains to make the trip up to York makes my heart sink.

I stand in the kitchen of the office, hands wrapped around a mug of tea, watching the incessant stream of images on the TV we bought to watch the Olympics: from accidents to huge queues on sludge-covered highways, from sliding parked cars to cancelled flights, image after image of chaos.

Every year I wonder at the unpreparedness, it never ceases to puzzle me: a few hours of beauty causing such widespread chaos.

A snowy scene in Museum Gardens
A snowy scene in Museum Gardens

And yet, other countries can cope. My mind takes me back a few years, to 2008, driving from Frankfurt to Munich to spend New Year Eve with friends. Temperature outside: -30C. To that time I drove back from Munich on a Friday evening and was caught in the middle of a sudden blizzard. To ski trips to the snowy Alps. I think hard, but can’t think of any disruption at all.

But other countries are better prepared than us, you tell me, because historically, winters in Britain have been mild. Yes, I answer, but frost fairs have been held on the Thames since the 15th century, haven’t they?

Every other decade seems to bring a new “Big Freeze”. I can’t help but think that it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Britain that in winter chances are that…there may be a little snow!

I sigh and sip my tea. I know that mandatory chaos-controlling winter tyres, efficient fleets of multitasking snow-ploughs and psychological readiness for “inclement weather” seem a lot to ask of a kingdom plunged into the depths of recession. I know that if we begin to get prepared for freezing winters now, we’ll probably be ready for them by 2020 only.


A chilly Ouse (top) and a shivery St William's College
A chilly Ouse (top) and a shivery St William’s College

I set my cup down and adapt my plans to the situation. I’ll have a drink at the pub with colleagues. Maybe go to that gig in Camden. And when later in the night, instead of the East Coast

Northwards, I take an-adjusted-timetable Southern train to my London pad, I’ll think of the virgin snow on the margins of the Ouse and wish I were there to leave footprints first.