Let it snow! Just a bit more, please

There was no white Christmas, but should we all be dreaming of a white February?

Will Hall

When the pre-Christmas snow fell like pine needles from the tree about two minutes after purchase (unless you’re one of the artificial heathens) I couldn’t believe my eyes. I raced to the windows, opened the curtains to see if Instagram was actually correct and this wasn’t just a new filter. Sure enough, there it was: snow. We only had a light dusting, the streets not looking so much like Courchevel as Keith Richards’ coffee table the morning after an after-party. Still, it was something.

The initial excitement of a snow dayellie swinburne

I hastily went outside with the kind of maniacal glee that leads you to neglect changing out of your pyjamas or finding alternative shoes to your mother’s slippers. I started to scrape the snow into a little pile, before realising it was only one atom thick and a snowman was out of the question. I could have managed a snowtoddler at best, but the sheer breathability of my breathable t-shirt was starting to become ever more apparent and, close to frostbite, I shuddered back to the house.

After trying in vain to Instagram our measly suburban offering (even Clarendon couldn’t help me), I got on with my day. It was by now approaching mid-December, so I had been feeling Christmassy for about 3-and-a-half months. The snow had increased this, and so I went to loft to dig out the festive Spotify playlist and started planning all the gifts I was going to procrastinate buying and thus allow to sell out. (It was fine, in the end my family seemed very happy with their handmade drink-with-your-son/brother/great-nephew [delete where appropriate] tokens, even if they are now in a pile in the sitting room next to the discounted memoir of a WWII evacuee – a misjudgement, it turns out – which my mother hasn’t looked at since Christmas Day 2012). Anyway, in short, I was feeling pretty good. Snow was falling. All around us. Presumably somewhere children were playing and having fun. It was the season for love and understanding. Merry Christmas, everyo-

Fuck, I thought, as my festive reverie was interrupted by the news that my train to London had been cancelled. As anyone who lives not-in-London knows, going to London is the only thing that breaks up the monotony of not living in London. In this case, I was going to see some friends (yeah, I’ve got friends) for a drink (yeah, I’m cool) who I hadn’t seen for ages (yeah, I’m disorganised). Suddenly, however, the snow was in the way. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t dreaming of a white Christmas. I was dreaming of a functional one (in fairness to Bing, that doesn’t scan nearly as well).

This, I reflected, would have greatly disheartened my younger self, who couldn’t get enough of it. It didn’t often snow much when I was younger, but I do remember one February flurry when it was deemed sufficiently snowy to be dangerous to drive. This meant my parents couldn’t go into work. Unfortunately, I lived within walking distance of the school, and they were one of those schools that refused to close even in the event of genuine world disaster, like a nuclear apocalypse, or when Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake came to the 2001 AMAs in double denim.

My dad walked me down to school, where I sat in the large room in which we had assemblies and watched as the trickle of my fellow walking-distancers traipsed in, furious that we were in school but our friends were out having fun. This was in the pre-social media days, so we couldn’t guarantee they were having fun, but we were pretty damn sure. Besides, we had something much worse than Snapchat: imagination.

In our minds we’d built an arcadia. The rest of the school were all out playing together. All of them. Even the ones that hated each other. They were now suddenly best pals.

“Foes became friends, bullies reconciled with their victims. They now had something in common: they were missing school because of the snow”

In our Snowtopia, everyone owned a perfectly-maintained sled, which their grandfathers had lovingly crafted and maintained for them in readiness for this day, and we’d concluded that every part of our small town outside the M25 must be full of nothing but hills. Hills we’d never seen before. Hills covered in thick, powdery, sled-able snow. And it was on the biggest of these hills that we, stuck in school, imagined the Children of the Snow were all gathered on: planning to buy a timeshare in Crete and making each other godparents to their unborn children. 

To make matters worse, it turned out some of the teachers couldn’t even make it in. It seemed unfair that they got a day off from school: a place they were literally paid to come to. The only small mercy was the hope that they too would be skiing down Happy Valley, bump into our peers, and arrange impromptu double Physics, writing equations in the snow.

In the event, however, it turned out to be one of the best days I’d ever had at school. There weren’t many staff, but enough children to justify keeping the school open and not send us home. The headmaster walked in and announced lessons were cancelled. Even though this should have seemed a predictable and necessary move on account of the fact that none of the people who were teaching those lessons were in school, we received the news like Roman slaves who had just been given the thumbs-up by the emperor.


Mountain View

Pretty enough for who?

Not only were there no lessons, but there was going to be a snowball fight. We were taken to a field round the back of the school, and told to have fun. This was unprecedented. They even put on a film in one of the classrooms so the kids who didn’t fancy running around in a field wouldn’t have to (a policy they never seemed to adopt for compulsory, thrice-weekly rugby). Strangest of all, we were even allowed to call the teachers by their first names, which sounds like fun but was actually horrendous as it only served to humanise them. However, we all knew that we had one day of this, and we were going to make the most of it.

After that weekend, when the snow had finally melted, everyone was back at school. It turns out our friends hadn’t all found a massive hill and waxed down their family-owned toboggans. They’d just been at home having fun by themselves in the snow, but not as much fun as we’d had at school.

So perhaps I should remember this next time I find myself complaining about the snow. That 10-year-old me would be upset to think I wasn’t outside, having fun and building a snowman. Or trying to, at least – even if there isn’t quite enough snow