Snow and I have an ambivalent relationship.



Try to use your bicycle now!

I used to hate snow. Don’t ask. Suffice it to say it’s cold, wet, and inconvenient if you have to go places. In big cities, like the one I grew up in, it also isn’t exactly pretty as it turns grey quickly. Or yellow. Never mind.

Then came Lorelai Gilmore, with whom I (not very) secretly identified quite a bit, and her love affair with snow. A little later I met my husband with his childlike enthusiasm about snow and his adorably cute inability to pronounce the German word ‘Schnee’ properly. And finally I had a real child, my little monster. Now, if you have ever seen a kid looking out the window in the morning, exclaiming with unadulterated glee “Snow!!!” you can’t really hate snow. Much.

So snow and I have agreed on a fragile truce for the time being.

Which is subjected to quite some strain every time it snows here in the UK.

Granted, it doesn’t happen very often, but it is also not an extremely rare occurrence. Last winter we had three instances, in one of which it stayed cold and white for more than a week.

This season we got lucky. Until last Saturday, when it snowed all through the night, resulting in up to 15 cm of white fluff. And a virtually immediate standstill of life. Even on Monday, there were still 50 % of all flights cancelled because the runways couldn’t get plowed, train services disrupted because of signal failures and schools closed (really?!) – and all of that after the snow had been

  • anticipated (with mixed emotions) for most of the winter,
  • forecasted for at least two days and
  • on the ground for all of Sunday.

OK, I admit I was actually quite impressed when two hours into the storm the major roads here in our neck of the woods were all ready salted. I mean, people were still driving like idiots but I’m not going to gripe about that, seeing that hardly anyone here uses snow tyres and is consequently – and rightfully – concerned about his/her own and others’ well-being.


Drivers like that drive me mad!

Which raises an interesting question: Why the frill does half of the drivers not clear their cars of the snow before partaking in traffic? Lazy? In a hurry? Spouse away on a business trip?

I have a theory about this: Most of the island monkeys who fail to rid themselves of snowy view barriers simply can’t. Because British cars are – out of misguided optimism? – not usually equipped with the essential tools for this kind of enterprise, such as hand brushes and ice scrapers.

Just like most households do not own a snow shovel. And why would they? Where I come from, we live by the principle that property entails obligations. In this case the duty to clear a path on the sidewalk outside your property wide enough for a wheelchair to pass. This ideal is obviously not adhered to in this country.


Happy sliding!

Instead, it is the council’s responsibility to plow, grit or salt the pavement. Now this is where it gets silly, because in this picture here you can see what a sidewalk looks like after the council has taken care of its responsibilities (NOT!), followed by a sunny day with some thawing and a subsequent night of temperatures below zero. Mind you, this is one of the major thoroughfares between the main train station, ASDA and the town centre.

By the way, minor roads and residential areas look pretty much the same, except they usually sport lovely icy ruts in which the cars slither along and which pedestrians wanting to cross the road have to navigate or die trying.

Needless to say, there is no sense in me dusting the snow off my bicycle as it is an utterly useless means of transport until the mighty weather gods have mercy on me and send some serious spring around.


Thank Germany for all-terrain buggies!

In fact, in conditions like this I tend to not leave the house without the little monster’s buggy for support. It has saved me more than once from probing the temperature and consistency of the ice with my backside. Of course, I am usually the only pram-pusher far and wide because our robust, thick-tyred, German 4×4 equivalent of a pushchair is pretty much the only model that can cope with slush, snow and ice around here.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The past couple of days have me grateful for a number of things:


We even made this little fellow.

  • Snow is fuuuunnn! For the first time since last year’s pathetic excuse for a summer left us alone with the proverbial British weather, the little monster actually wants to go outside all the time. Horsing around in the snow even trumps watching DVDs. I am in mommy heaven!
  • Once you have hobbled your way to the supermarket it is actually a delight to shop there at the moment as most people rather stay at home if they can help it at all.
  • So far it has not snowed again, so for now we are spared to proceed to the advanced level of treacherousness that is snow-covered ice. I am sure the NHS (National Health Service) appreciates the break (forgive the pun), too.
  • Thanks to the lovely cold weather, two of my earliest posts, Boys in tights and Clothes make the man… have been receiving loads of attention via various search engines. Oh I feel so popular…

18 thoughts on “Snowpocalypse

  1. Oooh boy, snow in the UK, a topic that makes me angry… the first year we moved to England, it snowed about 3cm. You could still see the grass poking out. The next morning, we were told that our school was closed. My brother and I laughed. In Ottawa, our school had been shut twice because of snow – once because the heating broke leaving the school as cold as the weather outside (-20 or so), and another because of the ice storm in 1998 that left 6 foot icicles hanging around the entrance. 3cm of snow was pitiful! People here don’t know how to dress or drive for snowy weather, we saw so many people out without gloves or even a real coat… I mean, even if it wasn’t snowing, it’s WINTER people!! And not clearing the snow off the car astonishes me. Great post Sandra (you struck a chord with one of your readers here, that’s some good writing! :D)

    • Ha, I did think of you there in the back of my head when I was writing this. The amounts of snow here are usually just laughable compared to a proper German or Canadian winter, as are the temperatures. Still, Brits just can’t deal with it.
      Yesterday we were the absolute only ones on the playground, even though it was a beautiful, sunny day and the little monster had heaps of fun jumping the snow off the trampoline.
      Oh yeah, and the clothes situation… Last week I saw a group of maybe 8-year-olds walking from the swimming pool to the bus waiting there to take them back to school. Half of them had their coats open and NONE (0!) was wearing a hat on their wet heads. Urgh! If I hadn’t written a post about inappropriate clothing yet I would definitely do it now!
      Well, on the bright side, we got to bond over a mutual pet peeve again, and you got out of school for no good reason back then. Yay for snow!

  2. I’m becoming less and less enamored with snow as I…ummmm…gain more life experience. If I could stay inside and look at it all day, I suppose it would be fine. Sadly, that’s not the case!

  3. I’m a Brit, born and bred and as soon as it gets to October I get my winter coat out, my gloves and scarf.
    I see people my ate (21) and they are barely wearing anything. Yesterday I saw 3 teenage girls in tiny skirts and 2 grown men in shorts.

    For me this is way too cold but a bit of snow doesn’t stop me going out. It may restrict me because of public transport but doesn’t stop me doing things…. except a drunk night out.

    I love to see the snow but hate going out in it but needs must.

    • Hey Vic, so glad there are reasonable Brits like you out there. I don’t even look at people on the street anymore because I’m so afraid of what I might see. I think you might enjoy reading my above mentioned post ‘Clothes make the man…’
      Anyway, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it.

  4. Wonderful! As a child I couldn’t imagine why anyone would not love snow! I’m still pretty childish, but I have come to understand what snow in a city entails. And snow in an unprepared city is the absolute worst! The path you show gives me the willys!

    In my town, we don’t really get a ton of snow, but it does happen. The worst year was back in the 80’s when it began snowing in November and never warmed up to melt the snow (highly unusual) and it kept snowing ALL winter! Because it melts here so quickly, many people simply wait for Mother Nature to clear the sidewalks. That year my driveway was an ice rink all winter. As a letter carrier I struggled over roadways like your photo, coming home utterly exhausted, if not bruised.

    But, I’m still a kid and I get giddy at the sight of snow, especially while it is drifting down from the sky. Pure magic.

    • Yes, I do see the appeal of snow, if only through my boys’ eyes. And I’m telling you, I am a lot happier experiencing snow in Berlin than around here. Of course the little monster doesn’t mind. He really enjoys the skidding around bit while I am frantically wiping my brow and trying to stay upright…

  5. The only time I love snow is when it first falls. I enjoy seeing the birds (and occasionally other) tracks in it, but after the first hour or so, my delight in it wears off. Mostly I hate the stuff. Hate going out in it (I don’t like extremes of temperature), get really pissed off if I have to look at it for days or weeks. Was it last year or year before last, too much snow in winter here. I can’t remember, but I know my mood was really bad for most of that winter because of the snow.

    The inability of my fellow Brits to cope with snow (and the stupidity of the various councils to grit or salt the roads and pavements) and those stupid idiots who don’t take the snow off their cards… urgh! I’m with you completely on this post, Sandra.

    Though you’d gasp at one of our postmen here – he delivers mail in his shorts, even in snow. I think that some people are just very hardy and don’t feel the cold, so they don’t feel the need to dress for it.

  6. Whoops – typos! ‘cards’ should have been ‘cars’. And I meant the stupidty of the various council not gritting or salting the roads and pavements. If you spot any more typos, just ignore ’em.

    • Well-put, Val. Snow is adorable as long as it’s new and white and fluffy. Later, not so much. I used to be really grumpy in winter, mainly because I just couldn’t dress warmly enough to cope with the temperatures in Germany. Two years of globetrotting in tropical climates and a move to the UK later, I deal a bit better. At least my mood doesn’t suffer as severely anymore. Maybe it’s also having a kid, who knows…
      As to your postman, I have only sympathy for these guys at the moment. Over here, they deliver the mail by bicycle, so the last week must have been an ordeal for them at best. Hell more like it.
      Thanks for your kind words, they are much-appreciated, coming from a fellow islander.

  7. Funny about Val’s shorts-wearing postman. There are guys like that here, too. I don’t think they are particularly hardy. I think they are astoundingly stupid and desperate to appear macho. That said, I remember my mini-skirt high school days in Wyoming. How/why in the world did I wear mini-skirts with a foot of snow to plow through and gale force winds to freeze the knobs off my knees?

    • It’s plain ridiculous! The other day, the little monster fancied a stroll to the train station – one of his favourite pastimes at the moment. It was freezing cold, literally. Instead of just watching the trains through the fence as we usually do, we had to warm up inside the station. In walks a young man in shorts and t-shirt. I had to distract the little monster, otherwise I would undoubtedly have faced his demands to get undressed too, seeing how he tends to always opt for the less reasonable way of dressing.
      I suppose teenagers have to do this, it’s like a rite of passage. If it doesn’t hurt you are not growing up. Or so.

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