Snow at last! And not the weak wishy washy snow that melts as soon as it hits the ground, which was what I was afraid we would get. We woke up on Monday morning to a shining white crust of snow covering every available surface. It wasn't terribly thick, but the fact that it had settled at all was a source of wonder to the kids. I made them get dressed in a hurry - it only took about an hour and a half - so that we could go up to the local park - I was convinced it was getting warmer and that the snow would melt before they had had a chance to experience it properly. But just before we set out, Juliette cried: "It's snowing again!" And when we looked very hard, we could just see the minute flakes falling from the sky. By the time we had made it to my parent's house, five minutes walk away, the snow was falling thick and fast. We picked up my father and my baby sister Miriam and her two tiny doglets, Polly and Elsa, and walked to the park with the snow whirling through the air, a silent ballet of soft, fat, cotton wool ice.
The local park - Warner's End - presumably where poor Warner met his maker - is probably about four acres of grass with a few massive fir and cedar trees. The little shopping centre at the end of it has always seemed a tad run down and seedy, but if you turn your back and look out at the park itself and ignore the thundering of traffic from Northridge Way, you can easily pretend you are in the grounds of some stately mansion, it is so lovely. And I had forgotten quite how beautiful snow is. The white lining that lies along the top of every branch, every leaf, the green of the evergreens beneath, the very purity of the snow is staggeringly beautiful. And it was wonderful to watch the children; when your kids are little, through the aching trauma of sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion, you have the joy of watching them discover their environment; seeing their faces light up with delight when they pour water from a cup, when they feel the first sifting of sand through their fingers, the explosion of a mango in their mouths, the wash of a wave against their legs. But then they grow up and become tired of life - everything is boring, or embarrassing, or old fashioned or daggy etc etc (for the big hairy one in particular) Which was why it nearly brought tears to my eyes to see them running around in the snow together, throwing snow balls at each other, laughing (yes, even the big hairy one), putting out their tongues to feel the snow in their mouths, gazing in awe at the ice crystals in their hair and on their clothes, making snow angels on the ground.
We spent quite a while just playing around in the snow until we realised that the doglets were covered in great lumps of ice that had cleaved to their fur, at which point we realised we would have to go home before they turned into snow dogs. The girls very self consciously made a snow man in the back garden of my Grandmother's house, I think more out of a sense of duty than anything else, but now at least they can say they have done it.
It hasn't snowed since, but the frost has been so thick that one could almost make snow men out of it. In it's own way it is almost as pretty as the snow. Miriam took me to Berkhamstead yesterday - the posh town near to Hemel - and we drove down roads lined with trees and hedges that were covered in a thin filigree of silver. It's breathtakingly beautiful until you get out of the car and then your breath is taken in quite another way - it's like being punched in the stomach by the cold - cold that pierces every part of your clothing, that flies up your nostrils so that your nose runs, freezes your cheeks and lips so that you can hardly talk and makes your glasses so cold that every time you walk into a shop or house you spend the first few moments bumbling around with fogged up vision. Have to say I am looking forward to some heat and blue skies....