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Snow way

January 30, 2015

Travelling to work today on the train, I was most perplexed to awake from my morning nap and discover snow. Unless I had been particularly unobservant on my shuffle to the train station this morning, we have not yet had snow in Ely (disappointingly, no earthquakes either – the Fens is quite dull in comparison to the rest of the UK).

But on leaving Cambridge, as though suddenly ducking through the Wardrobe Door into Narnia, the whole landscape changed to one of thick, velvety snow. And we’re travelling south! It’s like Royston has its own mini micro-climate (if not a magical lion, a witch in a spiky coat, and a dubious religious message) and is taking one for the team, as ten miles later we were back to green(ish) fields, and the usual industrial damp.

But – snow is apparently on its way. If it’s hit Royston, that usually means we’ll get it in a couple of days. “Yay, snow!” everyone will gleefully shout on Facebook, attempting to convince themselves that cold fluffy water that guarantees damp ankles and grumpy husbands is actually a Good Thing, and not just a royal pain in the ass. Snowmen! Snowball fights! Snow angels! Yay winter!

No. Snow is not cause for the word ‘yay’. With snow comes an annual realisation that gloves procured at £3.99 from the Saturday market are just false economy. Coats that smell like damp dog. Boots that thaw into a pool of muddy water, and coal that now weighs an extra five kilos, and doesn’t burn.

Unless you are five, snow is not fun. Even if you are five, snow is only fun for approximately ten minutes, after which it is followed by numb feet, lost mittens, and a crushing sense of failure when your pathetic attempt at a snowman uses up all the snow in your backyard and is still only two foot tall, and your mum doesn’t have a carrot. Or says she doesn’t.

Snow makes living on the boat… challenging. The roof boards creak ominously under the weight of a snowdrift, our skylights blanketed, our portholes frozen in a sticky rime. If the river freezes, a disconcerting ping echoes around the boat, as the ice plates shift and we, with mounting hysteria, agree that having only 12mm of ageing steel between us and impromptu hypothermia is no way to live. The decks of the boat become twenty metres of sheet ice, and, hilarious to the casual onlooker, one has to plant one’s feet at right angles against the sides of the gunnels, hands firmly clutching the roof and the handrails, in order to navigate the six feet of walkway between the hatch and the relative safety of the bank. Watching the cat traverse this hazard is reminiscent of the scene in which Bambi takes a spin on an ice-covered lake, only less graceful. Having embarrassed himself several times, the cat now just stays inside until spring, and pees in the sink.

As for snow and the morning commute? Well. My 12-minute walk to the train station will easily be doubled as I am extra cautious not to career down the riverbank into the water. I foresee major delays as February takes Network Rail completely by surprise and a two-inch drift shuts down the main lines until they can get the right kind of staff. The heating will fail, the train will stop for no good reason next to a field, and there will be panic buying of hot sausage rolls from the buffet cart. (I’m kidding – there is no buffet cart.)

I’m not a killjoy. Snow has its place. That place is halfway up a picturesque mountain, under my skis, and surrounding a hot tub in which I am sat, large gin and tonic in hand. Where I’ll be in approximately three weeks in fact. Now THAT is cause for the word yay.

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