Snow came just before my eighteenth birthday. Snow so deep and widespread it blocked roads for miles. A souvenir paper was printed afterwards: photos of snow above door lintels, photos of the postman tramping for miles over snow, photos of dogs on hastily made sleds. Cars were abandoned on the motorway: drivers rescued by locals and put up in community centres. We trekked the three miles into town to buy bread and essentials – little groups trudging slowly. People called out cheerfully to strangers, helped each other up when they fell. In the little supermarket, the local radio was on – no music, just news. A helicopter had rescued a farmer’s wife who’d gone into labour, neighbours rallied round their elderly neighbours, made sure they were safe. Snow’s not going to get us down – we can recreate the Blitz spirit.

Our hill, you should have seen it. It was bad enough anyway, a double hairpin bend – drivers need to blast twice on the horn driving up or down. When it rained, you walked to school in a twisting torrent. When it snowed – no chance. If there had been a snow plough, it couldn’t have got up. Anyway, our postman wasn’t a hero. No way he was going to clamber up the slip down for the sake of 100 houses. So no birthday cards. No presents.

Lucky for me, it thawed just enough for us to get to the station so I could go for my university interview. The train was late and slow. The tracks had frozen and were now defrosting. We went up past flooded fields full of bloated sheep; drowned in the melt water. And then we changed direction.

But the snow hadn’t melted in the North, so there we were, Mum and I, in totally the wrong clothes, looking out over a city which would have been strange even if it hadn’t been sparkling white. The roads were clear but the pavements were slippery under my smart shoes and where the snow had been piled up into the gutter it was impossible to climb over in a narrow smart dress. A total stranger came up laughing, picked us up in turn and carried us to the other side of the road. Then we were on my own. The faculty house was up some uncleared side street. We crunched up to the door in sodden shoes, snow dusting our skirts. The secretary took Mum off for some tea while the Professor and I sat huddled over a gas heater to talk about English.

And so we returned from the still frozen North to the thawing South. The bloated sheep were hidden by the dark and our town was dripping with melted snow. And then here was home: warm and cosy, the lights in the dining room illuminating the diminished snowman in our front garden. The postman had been at last and finally, two weeks late, I had birthday presents to open.DSCN1241 Inside Out

Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

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