There’s no-one left alive now who remembers the Big Snaa of 1895. The winter when my Grandfather, recently arrived in Glasgow from Caithness, skated regularly on the frozen Kelvin. Despite appearances, I’m too young to remember 1947, when the snow piled higher than houses and POWs were detailed to dig out snowbound, local trains. However, I am old enough to have vivid, uncomfortable memories of the Long Freeze of 1963; a freeze which began with a snowy Hogmanay and continued far into what should have been the spring. A big, draughty house with neither central heating nor double glazing; a stone hot water bottle wrapped in an old sock; dressing in bed in a room so cold, breath vaporised; and, at weekends, the town’s weans migrating en masse over the white, frozen fields to skate, birl, slither and screech over the ice of Numerston Loch.
Of course, there’s been the occasional snow flurry since. Schools closed; travel plans postponed. But never, never, down here in the balmy South West, where the Gulf Stream normally keeps us all so toasty and tropical, has there been such a prolonged spell of numbingly, Arctic weather.
So, how are Mr. Dog and I managing? Have I harnessed the Noble Beast up to a tea tray and gone mushing round the town? A canine version of an Ice Road Trucker? A small libation of Bladnoch’s finest decanted into a wee barrel, slung round his neck, for sustenance on particularly strenuous expeditions? Actually, no. In early December, when our weather was merely cold, we managed fine but it became a different matter once the ice came down in earnest. The last time Mr. Dog and I ventured out unaccompanied was the week before the Solstice. And even then, we did the steep descent to the main street by taxi.
Now, with the temperature plummeting towards Absolute Kelvin, the council motto, “We’ve Nae Money”, is much quoted; to excuse our perilous pavements and risky roads. And, really, it’s just too bad, all those other regions of Britain, becoming ice bound in January, causing a national shortage of grit and salt. Plaintive persons from the Centre of the Universe, aka Dumfries, bleat to the local media, presumably in a vain hope we will all donate the contents of our salt cellars.
Okay, we might no longer have any POWs but what about those supposedly doing Community Service? Why haven’t they been detailed into chain gangs to clear our streets? It’s all very well, keeping main streets clear but the residential areas are so iced up, no-one can easily reach the shops! And it’s not just local government; the Heid Bummers in Edinburgh are either reiterating similar remarks or apparently regarding the sight of the population sliding along on its collective bahoochie as a bit of a laugh. However, I’m not complaining; compared to many, my situation is enviable. Over the holidays, my Husband took over the task of exercising Mr. Dog; the lad must be the fittest Guide Dog in Britain, with his daily run through the Town Wood. And, when I have ventured out, I’ve Mr. Dog guiding me on one side, and Husband’s arm and, dare I say it, weighty presence on the other. Off we go, our mission the replenishment of such essentials as mince and fresh parsnips. Kitted out like Victorian mountaineers, tweed coats, hiking boots and a swathe of scarves. We slither along the gentler slopes; on a slalom between glistening ice fields and the new, deeper selection of pot holes now decorating our roads.
So far, so good. And, as it’s been the holidays, even daytime telly has been tholable. But now another fortnight of this freeze has been predicted! With Husband back at work, what’s to do? Well, I can polish the brasses; throw things around the lawn for Mr. Dog to chase; bake a year’s supply of Madeira cakes for the freezer. All enjoyable but, unfortunately, not involving much exercise. Probably, the way to use up the greatest number of calories would be to sit in the garden, shivering, in shorts and tee shirt. Except, I’ve no desire to experience frostbite and hypothermia.
Usually, when animals emerge, blinking, into the watery sunlight of spring, months of enforced hibernation have resulted in serious weight loss. If this weather ever defrosts, I’ll certainly emerge blinking but several dress sizes larger! Aye, once again, it’ll be the Special K Jeans Challenge for me.