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   In Aberystwyth when I was younger, snow was so rare we even got excited about hailstones : gathering them up like small white pebbles that soon disappeared in your hands.
   Only when we moved to England did I encounter proper snow.
  The rolling chalk hills normally flecked with shards of white rock turned into waves of white and the lanes where we recalled Dylan Thomas's 'Child's Christmas in Wales' ,where it was always snowing on Swansea Bay.
   On the village cricket field I once played with my main Christmas present, a plastic football ( geological eras away from those i-pods, pads and phones of today, it seems). I took it home, placed in by the fire to dry and returned later to find a mass of melted plastic.
   I used to play both rugby and football games for the school in snow as well. With a bright orange ball in footie and hands so stiff in rugby that catching the ball I feared I'd lose my fingers.
   Fast forward years to Teaching Practice in Tredegar and the real mountain variety, with the Valleys totally covered. With pupils there I shared my poem about a boy and a snowman who comes alive ( I like to think Raymond Briggs nicked my idea). In my narrative, the snowman gets arrested before the same ending as that  famous story.
   Fast forward again rapidly to Wales and two of my children born in the snow (well, not literally!).
   For the first my wife rushed in an ambulance over to Abernant through the thickness of flake-fall.
   For the third one, my elder daughter driving us down to the Heath in Cardiff, as it came down fast and settling.
   Snow babies, yet neither named Eira.
   In '82 it was so high that our central heating outlet kept getting blocked and neighbours came to our  assistance with blow-torch! I was stuck in Totleigh Barton in Devon and lucky to get out just because one of the people on the course was married to a building contractor, who could dig us out.
   At that time there were acts of looting ( described vividly in Rob Minhinnick's poem 'The Looters'), but equally there were many acts of kindness and community spirit.
   As a teacher, the procedure used to be to report to the nearest school, which then invariably told us to go away, as so few pupils had turned up.
   One time I remember trudging all the way down and up to Pen-y-dre (at the top of the Gurnos estate) with my late, good friend and namesake. Soon as we arrived the Deputy announced it was shut!
   A Head there used to come up from Cardiff and at first didn't believe in closing because of the weather.
   He left his very expensive car in the school car-park overnight and found it trashed by morning. After that, a sign of the white stuff and he'd shut the school instantly.
   Some parents complain about teachers taking off because of snow , but it's the authorities and Heads who make the decisions. These are based on forecasts which are usually reliable ( as at present) , transport difficulties and Health and Safety concerns.
   The latter isn't a mere bureaucratic requirement, but a realistic assessment of genuine risks to children should they attend.
   It must be remembered that the last 20 years have seen a proliferation of litigation and those same parents who moan the most might well be the first to sue should little Johnny break his head open on ice in the yard.
   A whole new part of the curriculum - the Foundation Phase at Infant level - is based on learning through play, using snowy Sweden as an inspiration.   
   In actual fact, the children don't get out that often, so what better way to experience this than days off in the snow, away from their ubiquitous screens, on sledges, making angels and snowmen, or having snowball fights.
   And adults allowed to behave like kids again and join them.
  
   I have one quibble with the forecasters : Red Alert?.......shouldn't it be White Alert?


                                   SNOW  COMES

Snow comes
like a thief at night
taking away our prize possessions :
our car rendered useless
under weight of white.


                                                            Snow comes
                                                            like a dream at night
                                                            giving a world of childish games,
                                                            our years rolled into balls
                                                            and launched into flight.
 
 

 


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04/26/2013 03:09

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