A Winter Wonderland
Nadia Kabir Barb
Photo credit: Ayesha Barb
The alarm brought me out of an unusually deep slumber and it took me a few seconds to realise that it was already morning. As I lay in bed trying to will my limbs to activate themselves, I noticed that something did not seem quite right. I could not put my figure on it immediately but when my brain was fully in gear, it dawned on me that it was very quiet, in fact it was eerily quiet outside. I got out of bed and opened the curtains and the sight that greeted me genuinely took my breath away. By this time my husband had managed to rouse the kids in preparation for school and I could hear their shrieks and whoops of sheer delight. Everything outside was covered in snow and it looked like a picture from “The Snow Queen” or some other fairytale. It was a veritable winter wonderland.
Behind our house, we have a communal garden that is accessible from our back patio and when I looked out onto the garden, I could barely repress my excitement. The blanket of snow covering the expanse of the entire garden was dazzling to behold. It was just magical. I think there must have been more than eight inches of snow which for us was unheard of. I have yet to see my children get dressed as quickly as they did that morning in the hopes that they would be allowed to play in the snow for a bit before they were dragged kicking and screaming to school. So at about seven in the morning they made their way into the garden with their hats, coats, gloves and scarves on! The fact that they were the first ones outside added to their enjoyment. I watched them running and jumping in the snow, throwing snowballs at each other and attempting to build a snowman. Soon other children joined them and the parents started to come out to join in the fun. Despite the chill in the air, there was a glow of warmth and happiness in the scene outside my window.
For those of you wondering why I am writing about it snowing, considering the fact that I happen to live in a country with a cold climate, the reason is that we hardly ever get snow in London. When it rarely does occur, the snow is only a couple of centimetres deep and disappears after a few hours. So you can imagine our amazement to find the streets covered in snow and it took me a while to figure out which one our car was as it was almost invisible under the layers of snow that had fallen overnight. The few pedestrians that had braved the streets decided to take the opportunity to walk right in the middle of the street as this was probably the only time they were going to find the roads devoid of any vehicles. The last time it snowed as heavily as this was eighteen years ago in February 1991!
It was after an hour or so of calling up parents of friends of my children and trying to figure out how to get the kids into school that we received an official text message (hallelujah for technology!) from the schools notifying us that the school would be closed due to the extreme weather conditions. Soon after that my husband checked on the internet to find that most of the public transport had been suspended and therefore he was unable to get to work. It was only then we started realising the impact the weather was having on the whole of the country. Everything had come close to a grinding halt.
Thousands of schools across the country were closed, retail shops could not open due to shortage in staff and those who did try and stay open found there were no customers. People could not travel to work as the tubes and trains were operating a skeleton service and the Mayor of London decided to stop all buses running in the city. Even major airports such as Heathrow had most of their flights cancelled and they too were running a very limited service. Only one out of five employees even made it to work on the day costing the already faltering economy millions of pounds.
Questions were raised as to how a little bit of snow could paralyse an entire country. For people living in colder climates than ours it was a bit of a joke that what constituted a little smattering of snow to them, could send us into such disarray. A little snow that melts the minute it reaches the ground or a bit of ice after a particularly cold patch we can deal with. But if you think about it, we are no longer used to snow storms or blizzards in Britain. If weather like this occurs every ten or twenty years, then it is not totally unthinkable that the country is not equipped to deal with it. Rather than risk having major accidents due to cars or trucks colliding with each other on slippery roads and motorways, it might be more sensible to take to the roads only if it is imperative or avoid breakdowns resulting in people sitting for hours in cars waiting for a recovery vehicle.
Why would anyone look a gift horse in the mouth? Here we were being told to stay at home and avoid going out unless it was an emergency. So most people took the opportunity to spend it with their families and enjoy this most unexpected gift. My husband and I were no exception. The snowflakes on my window pane and the laughter of the children outside revelling in the snow brought a smile to my face. Later on when I managed to brave the freezing weather, like most people I could not resist hurling a snowball or two myself...
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