Published on January 11th, 2015 | by Keith McClellan0
Aynho Writers: A Winter’s Tale by Barbara Harris
As a child, I loved looking at pictures of warmly dressed children making snowmen, snowballing and sledding in deep snow. I was fascinated by gently powdered trees, delicate icicles like miniature stalactites, sparkling frost. It never occurred to me that snow was cold or wet, that ice was slippery or that skating was not as easy than it looked.
Where I lived, it was hot. In the cooler months, if the temperature occasionally fell below 70 degrees F we would strut around in cardigans, wear flannelette pyjamas, and snuggle, unbelievably, under eiderdowns. “Isn’t it cold!” we would say, hoping this delightful change would last. It seldom did, of course. In the tropics the only real change tends to be torrential rain or at worst a hurricane apart from a cool ‘norther’.
In my 20’s I lived for a few years in New Orleans, where the temperature was, if anything, hotter, because there was no cool sea breeze in the city. Winters were cool enough to wear light coats or thin jerseys but it was a topsy-turvy existence because in summer, in one’s chilly, air-conditioned office, a light cardigan was needed but outside the fierce heat hit you like a wave.
One year, though, it actually snowed! Great excitement; Schools were let out so that the children could experience the phenomenon – a thin powdery layer of white – and Businessmen could be seen furtively making little snowmen on the tops of their cars. It only lasted an hour or so but what a delight it was.
I returned to England in the spring and after six months was posted to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Here the norm was very hot, often 120+ but houses and offices were air-conditioned. The Navy, Army and RAF had bases there so there were plenty of young people and we had a good time. I became engaged to a Naval Officer. He was due to return home in November and our wedding date was set for January, so I planned to get back home for Christmas.
What hadn’t even entered my head was that I would be flying back from the intense heat of Bahrain to the middle of an English winter. Having left the U.K. in early summer, all I had was a light spring coat. My fiancée was at the airport to meet me. He announced that he had driven there in his famously beloved 1936 MG. I saw to my dismay that the top was down.
“I never put the top up unless it is pelting with rain,” he announced proudly. “You won’t be cold” he added kindly, “you’ll be behind the windscreen – oh, and Mum’s sent you her fur coat”.
Good old Mum I thought gratefully, snuggling into its comforting warmth. He then produced a headscarf which I soon realised was a must in a topless MG, especially on a freezing cold night. He piled my luggage into the small space at the rear end and we were off. I hunkered down as far as I could under the bonnet but boy was it cold! I suppose the drive only took about half an hour but my hands and feet felt like blocks of ice.
We arrived at last and he ushered me inside to be welcomed by his smiling parents..
“I hope you were warm enough dear?” his mother enquired anxiously.
“Of course she was!” was her son’s indignant response. “She had your fur coat.” I thanked her profusely and felt we had already established a secret bond about not saying what we really thought in the face of cheerful male insensitivity. It was Pop who said,
“What about a whisky?” I could have hugged him.
“Yes please!” I said with palpable enthusiasm.
“Soda or water?” he asked
“Neat please”. I was way beyond caring what anyone thought. He grinned appreciatively
“A girl after my own heart! Neat it is”. He produced a tumbler with a generous amount of amber liquid. I sipped slowly, feeling its welcome warmth slowly trickling down and warming me to my very toes. It was the best drink I had ever had.
“Welcome to the family!” Pop raised his glass and winked.
I had arrived.