Winter 2020.

The first snow of the year arrived last week. We woke up to an absolute blizzard with almost horizontal snow falling and a winter wonderland for a brief hour or two. I do love to look out on a snowy landscape; there is something quite magical about it all but for the past nine years we have had pretty mild, virtually snow free wet, grey winters. Even morning frosts were few and far between so it was all pretty monotonous; sadly it’s looking as if we will be repeating the great greyness again this year.

There is something hugely comforting about the changing seasons and I am particularly fond of Spring and Autumn. Spring, for all the new growth and wonderful fresh colours that lift the spirits and Autumn because it is the end of what have become of late, hot and humid summers. I am definitely not a fan of 100 C, 75 to 80C is fine, sleep is not affected in the cooler weather and sitting out especially if there’s a breeze, can be a pleasure.

It’s ironic how advertising and songs always emphasise a white Christmas and everything is distinctly old-fashioned and unreal, it almost makes me feel a teensy bit nostalgic and I smile when I see windows frosted from a spray can, what fun cleaning that off afterwards, and imitation icicles hanging, twinkling from eaves and porches. But the reality is often a very different story with many spending more than they can afford. Maybe this year it will be different, the advent of the coronavirus has changed much in our lives, perhaps out of the horror of it all something good however small, will emerge and Christmas can be something special.

The LSO and I had a brief nostalic moment at lunchtime today and brief it was. We both remember as children, the freezing cold winters in the North East and there is nothing at all christmassy about scraping the ice off the inside of the windows, thank goodness for triple glazing and central heating. Our wood-burning stove is a joy and does heat a great deal of the ground floor giving the radiators a well earned rest.

Like many this year we have put our Christmas lights up earlier than usual in an effort to bring some cheer to the great greyness. The snow lasted for less than 24 hours and once gone revealed wet, muddy roads and sad verges that are almost an echo of life in general these days. But negativity never gets anyone anywhere so it will be positive thinking even if we have to put the lights on in the daytime.

At least we are not having to scrape the ice of the inside of the windows!

What went wrong?

I am experiencing a dreadful feeling of sadness and it has come over me quite suddenly. I think it is probably a by-product of the current situation that we find ourselves in although it is definitely not helped by the rantings of the press, the railing against the government by all and sundry, the shocking pictures of violence both here and around the world and the huge selfish attitudes of so many about so many different things, not just the effects and worries that are towed along by Covid-19.

I am, like many, quite shocked by the current news photographs around the world of packed beaches, all night raves, violence and large parties where social distancing is a thing of the past, that is if it ever existed for these people. I read articles where politicians are to blame for everything and that appears to exonerate the actions of the many who appear to have no regard for others or even for themselves and I feel sad, a deep, deep sadness because I wonder what has happened to the world.

The LSO and myself were born just after WW2 into the great greyness which was lightened occasionally by a smattering of bottle green and brown in all its various shades. Men had two suits, one for work and it was often the demob one and one for best which serviced everything from christenings to funerals. The Cooperative Society Dividend went towards winter coats and school shoes and food was still rationed so meals were basic and each day of the week was the same each week. Our diet was healthy enough because we grew a lot of our own vegetables and fruit with the luckier ones being able to afford a greenhouse, those who didn’t have a garden could have an allotment for a few pence a week.

But it truly was a grey world, being in the North East it was wet a great deal of the time and definitely colder than the South but as children we were unaware that things could be different. Men back from the war years were glad to be alive although the physically disabled were in evidence on street corners trying to make a meagre living selling matches and other sundry items. Council houses were nothing to be ashamed of and only the really well off like doctors and lawyers could afford to own their own property. Gardens were maintained to a high standard and people took a pride in what they had, gathering at the Community Hut for regular events such as vegetable and flower competitions, cake shows and women took a huge pride in their jam making. There was even a section for children to display embroidery, simple sewing and my favourite was always the miniature garden on a tray with a mirror for the pond.

We didn’t have much and Christmas presents always featured mostly around things that were needed such as slippers and a dressing gown. An Annual was usually included along with a Cadbury’s selection box and I can remember being envious of my brother getting the Eagle Annual, I loved reading about Dan Dare and the Mekon. The stocking hanging usually over the fireguard, was always a sock of my dad’s with a few nuts and an orange but I didn’t feel deprived or wanted what others had because life was just what it was.

After leaving school I went to Art School and met the LSO, a mere fifty-six years ago and life was fun, the swinging sixties were just that for us and in 1970 we got married. We weren’t idealists but we wanted a better life for our children which in truth they got. I am sure much of what I have written will apply to the majority of people in our age group. I resent the comments made about the grey pound population being a drag on the market, we worked hard all our lives for what we have now and paid all our taxes but the difference between us and our own parents is that we had the opportunity.

So what went wrong? I can only put it down to greed in all its forms and sadly that is a hugely distructive element of human nature. It would appear that the majority of people in powerful positions in this world are the greediest, the more gently intelligent members of the human race are being squashed and shouted down.

The other day during a conversation with our daughter (K) who has just had her 45th birthday I asked if she had had a good day and some lovely presents. She said one of the best presents had come from a neighbour who had scoured the internet to find something that she would really like, it wasn’t expensive, just the right thing and K said that those are the most cherished and appreciated presents because someone had really thought about her as a person.

So true and I did feel that we hadn’t got it all wrong as parents but we just need a zillion more people with that attitude to make the world a better place.

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