Its snowing outside as I write this, which is a stupid thing to write because it would hardly be snowing inside would it, although when I was a kid it did get icy inside the house, those pre-central heating days, ah where did you go to those pre-central heating days, those days when you’d wake up snuggled and almost suffocated under layer upon layer of woollen blankets, eiderdowns, your winter coat and with a cold hot water bottle reminding you that it was now morning and time to get up for school – the sight of ice patterns on the inside of the windows reminding you that this was the middle of winter and it was another frikkin freezing day out there in the big wide world.
We moved to this suburb in November of 1964, its the highest point for many a mile around here, its why we have a big TV transmitter mast and a water tower right at the top of our street for right at the top of our street is the highest point for many a mile around and if its going to snow anywhere then it will snow here first – I keep reminding the current wife of this fact as she sits in our living room in the front of the house and complains like bloody hell that its another freezing cold night in this house and I point at the lights of the Emley Moor TV transmitter mast in the 25 mile far distance and remind her that there is nothing higher than this house between here and there, thats why we can see the fookin thing, thats why its so fookin cold because the fookin wind blows all this way from Emley Moor just to batter our house on the hill.
And if I’m feeling brave I remind her that she chose this house, but most of the time I don’t.
When I was nobbut a seven year old lad we moved up here but until Christmas we kept going to the school we’d left behind in the old neighbourhood, so it was into the new year before we got to go to our new school, the one that is actually only a few hundred yards away from where I live now and it was at our new school just after Christmas that we met the Ackroyd Brothers.
The winter of 1965/65 was a normal winter, that is that it seemed to snow a lot, a lot more than it snows now. Oh yes I hear you all saying, you’re doing that old man thing now where the winters were more wintery-er and the summers were more summery-er and beer was thru’pence a pint, you could go out, get drunk, buy a new suit, a bag of monkey nuts and still have your bus fare home from a half crown, but listen, I’ll tell you how much more wintery-er the winter of 1964/65 was compared to this light dusting of snow that we’ve just had today, the light dusting of snow that has ground the country to a halt and seemingly deserved it very own half hour news bulletin on the BBC tonight, I’ll tell you what the winters were like – in the winter of 1964/65 the Ackroyds and me, we built an igloo, a full size igloo, well big enough for three eight year olds to sit in it and freeze their arses off anyway.
Stuart Ackroyd was the first kid to speak to me when I started the new school, right about the same time as I realised that all the kids in this new school were a lot posher than I was, I’d come from Burley, an inner city district where people lived in terrace houses and kids went to school in ancient Victorian edifices – this was the suburbs and we lived in a semi-detached bungalow with its own driveway and a wide street with grass verges, we had a garden that had trees in it for gods sake, only Burley park had trees in Burley, we had three trees in our own garden, almost as many as Burley Park had.
“Come round to us house tonight” he said in that strange way the Ackroyds had of speaking for their family came from a place where the dialect was rather more broader than this posh suburb, maybe he recognised a not-so-posh kid in me too, “we’re going to build an igloo”
When I got home I put on my one pair of jeans, the only pair I owned, the ones with both knees missing, pulled on my wellingtons and walked up the street to the Ackroyds street where he and his brother were already marking out where the igloo was going to be, right on their grass verge outside their house, they made it bigger because I was there.
We spent the whole evening rolling huge balls of snow out of all the neighbours gardens and driveways then cutting them up into blocks of snow to build with and by the time my dad came to look for me we’d almost finished it, a complete igloo.
Thats how much it snowed in the winter of 1964/65, and that wasn’t even a bad winter.