Down here in rural Sussex we do actually get proper snow, in contrast to folk who live in Brighton, who normally just get a sprinkling that soon melts. You have to understand that although Brighton is only a few miles away, it has a completely different microclimate. It's on the seaward side of the steep South Downs, and is a highly built-up seaside town with a mean temperature always several degrees above that of inland Sussex north of the Downs. In other words, my village is in the Cold Zone. And that ensures that any snow worthy of the name tends to accumulate and become deep and crisp and even, as in the carol about Good King Wenceslas. (As an aside, I don't recall hearing a single Christmas Carol last month, although I heard Mariah Carey belting out All I Want For Christmas Is You several times. Something not quite right there)
Yes, the pleasure and the pain of snow has come to Sussex in earnest. In fact it's been snowing since mid-morning. So I abandoned a post I was writing about the Maori in New Zealand (which may get an airing soon) and instead got ready to go out and see the snow while it was more-or-less pristine. First, though, I made sure I fortified myself with a solid breakfast, because it would naturally be madness to venture forth without an adequate thickness of subcutaneous fat to ward off the biting cold:
Then I tested the effect by brushing the snow off Fiona. She was thickly covered already. But I made a mistake: I put heavy-duty rubber gloves on over my bare fingers, and although these gloves kept my hands perfectly dry, they let the cold penetrate, and it almost hurt after a while. Even now, hours later, my fingers feel funny. So next time, I'll wear woollen gloves under the rubber ones, to keep my fingers from freezing. Old age, I suppose.
I intended to drive Fiona over to Ditchling, another village not far away, park off the main road, and walk up a hill with a great view, where the kids always go tobogganing. A neighbour came past me while I was still clearing the snow off Fiona. It was a man I often see walking his little dog. As usual, we exchanged a few cheery words. I told him what I had in mind, and hoped the road would be passable. He assured me that in my Volvo I wouldn't have any problem whatever. He was right. Fiona gave not the slightest sign of losing grip, and I made it to Ditchling as easily as if the weather were dry. I suppose this is partly what I bought her for, to make myself immune from winter weather in a worsening climate. She certainly looked in her element:
By now I was as warm as toast, and ready for a good stroll:
The little Leica came out, because I tend to go into blitz mode whenever snow falls - even though most photos taken in snow are often dull and unexciting unless corrected afterwards on the computer. The bright reflective snow always fools the camera into under-exposure. My camera does of course have a special 'snow' setting, but I prefer to shoot a standard photo on the ordinary 'program' setting, and then tinker with the result on my large PC screen when I get home.
The obvious way up the hill was to use the car track. It was all reasonably fairytale:
At the top end, the kids were very much enjoying the slope:
I wouldn't dare commit myself to a glorified plastic tray like those. I'd be too afraid of breaking a bone or two. The compacted snow was very slippery, and they seemed to shoot down the slope very fast. One of my friends likes snowboarding, and she is two years older than me. She must think I'm a scaredy-cat and completely feeble. I don't care. I'm staying on terra firma. Which I can do in style, because instead of wellies, I was dry and cosy in my Dubarry boots. What a good purchase those have turned out to be:
By now a wind had got up, and it was time to head back down to Fiona and go home. A cup of tea and a snooze. Why ever not?