(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – February 2022)
I got up early this morning. I couldn’t sleep. The forecast was for heavy snow from six a.m..
Readers of the brilliant Calvin & Hobbes cartoons by Bill Watterson will appreciate just what this means to a six year old kid. Well, I can tell you, this level of excitement doesn’t wane with age.
I eagerly awaited the day’s dawning as I have done on such days for the bulk of my sixty-three years. However, what constitutes ‘excitement’ now differs in nature from it did fifty-seven years ago. Words like ‘fun’ and ‘play’ have been usurped by ‘hassle,’ and ‘trepidation.’
How can I go for my run this morning? Will I be able to reach the next village for the dog walks booked in for today? How can I possibly get to the remote farm where I’m meant to be looking after a couple of cats this week? No work – no pay! How can I travel to the other side of the city and visit my elderly parents? Should I risk going to the shops for more beer in case I’m stranded at home over the weekend? Will my Club’s football match be on tomorrow?
Back in the late Sixties / early Seventies, there were no such worries what-so-ever. I’d hurriedly finish my porridge and toast and be out the house to meet pals half an hour earlier than normal for our walk to school / the bus stop. Snowball fights would escalate into anarchic battles involving dozens of kids launching tightly packed snow at anyone and everyone within throwing distance.
Fur trimmed parka jacket hoods would become saturated with melting flakes of snow and even at eight-thirty in the morning, the atmosphere on the school bus was filled with the thick, choking mix of cigarette some and damp clothes.
Such fun was actively discouraged in school though, and ‘two of the belt’ was meted out to any unfortunate miscreant caught in the act. An added excitement to the day.
Better though would be if the snow fell, or at least hung around, till the evening, when with comparatively few cars on the roads, the snow remained and reflected the street lights, making it feel like an extension of daytime. We’d all be back out playing again: some would build snowmen that likely wouldn’t survive till daybreak; some continued their snowball wars, and some formed a pact, teamed up and played a long distance game of ‘ring, bang, skoosh,’ by firing ice balls at the front doors of neighbours, then hiding in nearby bushes to watch the reaction.
Yeah. Those neighbours – absolutely no sense of fun or adventure, that lot! Especially Mr Thomson, two doors down. He’d chase us from the pavement outside his house where we’d packed the snow down hard to form a shiny, twenty yard slide, across which we’d skite on makeshift luge or skeleton sleds. Plastic, briefcase style schoolbags were ideal, so long as you remembered to remove all your jotters first.
Best of all though, was weekend snow. No school meant we could go sledging. For me, Mckechnie’s farm at the top of our street was the ideal venue, with what I remember as a long steep hill at the back that attracted many other likewise kamikaze inclined kids.
My sledge had been made by my grandfather at John Brown’s shipyard where he worked. It was a pure brute! Not so great on soft snow because of its weight, the wooden structure was built to accommodate tandem riding, its sturdy runners of shiny steel. A wooden bar across the front acted as a foot-rest, and a looped and knotted rope gave the impression it could be steered.
Of course, that’s all it was – an impression. The rope was simply for towing the sledge to the top of the hill, where the ultimate destination was plotted and, well …..
Heaven help anyone not quick enough to get out the way!
As I write this impromptu post, I look out the window and see the snow from the past couple of hours has turned to sleet. That which lay pristine and white an hour ago, has turned to a dirty, ankle deep slush. The slide I made earlier has disappeared under the salt indiscriminately thrown down by a neighbour and the little snowman is no more than a carrot.
The forecast has just changed to rain, now. Heavy rain. In fact it’s to rain cats and dogs as they say.
Which reminds me – I’ve got places to go, animals to see.
Yeah – sadly, s’no the same as it was back in the day.