Winter is the season of snow and ice. Ice is a lot more common than snow, and not a winter passes without you needing to spray the car windscreen with de-icer on some mornings. But years can go by with hardly a snowflake falling here in Norfolk. Even when it falls, snow soon begins to thaw. The winter of 1963 was unique in my lifetime, in remaining below zero for months on end. They tell me that 1947 was bad too, but that was before my time.
There is nothing worse than slush. In the Alps, or in the Scottish Highlands, where snowy winters are a certainty, winter snow is sought out by skiers and snowboarders. In more temperate parts it is an attractive sight when it first arrives, but there is little practical one can do with it.
I used enjoy snowballing when I was a child, and tobogganing when the snow was deep enough, which it seldom was. We had a sledge at home which sat in the garage all year, to be dragged out when the snow carpeted the lane. This might happen for a day or two, or it might not. Even when it did, the sound I remember is not the smooth swish of the runners across the snow, but the harsh scraping on the tarmac beneath.
Although I said that ice is much more common than snow, it is seldom thick enough to stand on. The many canals in Holland become streets of ice for skaters to race along for miles, because the continental climate is substantially colder in winter. Here in England, even the refrigerated skating rinks are frequently too wet for use.
Skiing is not quite out of the question in Norfolk, despite it being what many outsiders think of as the county that is as flat as a pancake. At Whitlingham near Norwich we have an acceptably steep ski slope. It is no good waiting for snow to fall however. This is an artificial ski slope, which relies on a slippery plastic covering instead of snow. At least it is as usable in the summer as in winter.
As I write, snowflakes are falling, only to melt as soon as the touch the ground. This sort of weather is depressing. At least I can stay indoors by the fire now I am retired; when I was a postman I had to be out in all weathers including snow. In theory, if it was a real blizzard, the delivery would be cancelled. This only happened about twice in all the years I did the job, and on both occasions we had already gone out when the instruction filtered down from head office. The post went out despite the blizzard.
It is the birds I feel really sorry for. They hide away somewhere from the precipitation, but the cold is everywhere. At least the postie can have a change of clothes when the delivery is over; that is a luxury that the bird must do without. Even the wild animals can get into a warm and dry hole until the snow is over.