It’s time to embrace this rare event and get in touch with your inner seven-year-old, says Jessie Collins
Like many others, and maybe especially parents, I suffer from green anxiety, a guilt-ridden relationship with the environment. I try and pick out a few things I can do to help, but ultimately I haven’t a clue if I am making any difference. I am filled with dread just trying to sort between three bins and have a tailback in my head of accumulated pieces of doom-laden information about where it's all going to end up.
This winter it struck me that perhaps one of the outcomes of global warming, albeit a small and inconsequential one, was that maybe I’ll never build a snowman with my kids. In the light of genuine concerns such as species disappearing and the destruction of the barrier reef, I am well aware this was a deeply trivial realisation. But it seemed possible. And that maybe we’d just get to fantasise about white outs and snowball fights and read about it in books.
The truth is, conditions for snow in certain parts of this country are so rare that it is possible to live almost a whole childhood between weather events such as these. The few times it does happen it immediately becomes the stuff of myth and legend. It is the reason why people still turn misty-eyed recalling them years and years later, such were the indelible memories made.
In 1982 at seven, I was at peak snow-enjoyment age. Living in a monochrome council estate that had little by way of beauty – even the one tree standing in the green field in front of the estate had been set on fire so many times, it was hardly able to force a green shoot. However, once the snow came, it transformed the drab, uniform landscape into a wonderland of possibility and play. A grassy verge at the end of our identikit row of houses became a slide of magnificent undulations and speed. And the more action it got, the better it became.
We had a plastic sledge that we used to take to the dunes in the summer that suddenly became a rocket of terrifying and thrilling force, lashing down the impacted embankment and narrowly missing the end house wall. I don’t remember any adults around, just crowds of kids, throwing themselves onto anything that would slide. Plastic bags became the vehicle of choice, and though your bum got a pummelling you were going to regret later, they were also the fastest show in town. The sheer joy of the repeating the thrill over and over is something I’ll never forget.
We dined out a thousand times on the stories from those few weeks. The food parcel drops to friends in more out of way places, some of which went undiscovered for years. Our Renault 4 sliding along the road, its tin can frame and lollipop wheels no match for sub zero surfaces. The weather put paid to us going anywhere, which was just fine by us.
Fast forward 38 years and the idea of being housebound for more than 24 hours has sent everyone flying into a panic, such is the importance we all place on our continuous engagement with everything that’s going on. There have been ads strategically placed on the radio for employers about making it more viable for their employees to work from home during ‘weather events’ - lest anyone should actually scrape back any of those upaid extra hours they have put in.
Year round, people are hauling themselves into work with eyes practically sealed shut from the flu, and finding themselves at the end of the year with 12 days holidays still to take and realising in the fine print of their contract it says they can only carry over three. It’s time we embraced what could be an increasingly rare experience and go full 1982 – ditch your phone, they don’t like snow anyway – and who needs to be watching someone else’s moments when you can be making your own?
This could be a once in a child’s lifetime event so as parents it’s our duty to grab it with both hands. Make it as difficult as possible for yourself to get to the office, don’t offer to work from home. In truth, we all know it is just a euphemism for checking your emails. For this once, lets just drop the pretense. Let’s embrace the fact that this is the stuff that childhood memories are made of, and adult ones too, and milk it for all we’ve got. And if your boss calls or asks for that thing you were supposed to be doing, tell him/her you are currently sitting on something labelled with a Centra logo and travelling down a slope at about 20 kilometres an hour, and life never felt so good.