WINTER: appreciatively a feeble effort to date. Michael Fish come back, all is forgiven.
Perhaps his blooper prompted the contemporary weatherman code of overstating portends. Is it favourable to exaggerate bad weather then to bomb predicting a hurricane?
The Great Storm of 1987 resulted in the deaths of 19 in England. So maybe it’s best to amplify warnings, not that it slows drivers down.
When it comes to snow, people lose their minds. There’s no explanation for this unless you sell carrots; can’t stand the white stuff personally. We subject ourselves to wildfire rumours on social media, a snowstorm is imminent. Happened last week, but it was a storm in a teacup rather than over our land.
Devizes got nought; I blamed Brexit. Then stories of yore circulate; how you could annually guarantee chin-high snowdrifts and the blizzard from Hoff.
Is it global warming, depends if you listen to scientists or Paul Nuttall. But I’m not here to bash on about that; this is a local column for local people, there’s no global issues here. So, I investigated amusing anecdotes about winters past in Devizes, to know what they did, where they sledged, and who was first to pick up a brown snowball.
The fields and streets down Hartmoor Road and Roundway Hill were popular sledging sites; Paul Baker told me he “got up to a fair old speed.”
Sue Linsley remembered the hill between West View Crescent and the wooden bridge at Hillworth, she “whizzed down there at some speed.” “Snowed under,” she continued, speaking of the particularly bad winter of 1963, “an awesome sight to see. It was the worst, but then again somehow the best winter in my memory.”
Patricia Besant also recalled Hillworth bridge, “one year when it had snowed really hard and had gone solid we were going down the lane to school, we were sliding down the hill, holding on to the railings when one of our teachers who lived near us went whizzing by on his little wooden case he always carried!”
“By the laws of modern health and safety you should all be toast!” I added.
Sue replied, “How we survived without all those H&S rules heaven knows, but you know, I don’t recall any serious accidents. Yes, we fell off, but we just got back on and did it all over again; happy days!”
A chap with the unfortunate name of OAP Kev also remembered Hillworth, sledging on the
path through allotments, “Fantastic slope down to the railway.”
He added his dad took them on the Crammar in his car!
Sledges were child-play for Ron Bridewell, who used to sit on bales of hay to go down the hill and feed the cows at Castle Farm.
Caroline Hubbard Reid recalled, “We sledded in the slopping fields behind the houses on the east side of the Fairway; Bill and June Brimacombe’s place. We’d go in the morning, finish up with hot chocolate, or hot orange juice in June’s kitchen.
“One day Mum came along too, wrapped in her sheepskin jacket, wearing sheepskin gloves, with a jolly knitted bobble hat on her head,” Caroline continued with a particularly amusing story.
“Mostly she watched, but eventually she conceded going down the highest slope with my brother Tim would be fun. The field sloped from both sides to a central valley that also sloped, down to a barbed wire fence and hedge marking off the next field.
“The snow had melted and frozen a few times, so it had a crisp shell for surface and the sledding was fast. She and Tim loaded on to the sturdy (homemade wooden sled,) Tim behind hanging on to her jacket. She pushed off down the steeper side, zoomed down and straight up the other, curved around, marvellous steering, and back to the valley down the centre.
“Somewhere along there Tim came off and Mum put out a foot to stop but swivelled the sled around sharply, heading straight down the valley towards the barbed wire and the hedge.
“We heard lots of noise, laughter, curiously! She shot straight down the valley, under the barbed wire which she grabbed to stop, thus losing a glove, swerved into the next field which was nearly flat, and gently coasted to a stop. Aghast we raced after her, to find her on her back in the snow roaring with laughter.
“Hot chocolate seemed like a good choice after that,” Caroline concluded, “No damage done. Glove retrieved. Though, strangely she never went sledding after that!”
So there you go kids; seems like these “oldies” can teach you how to have fun; or do you prefer swearing at staff and customers in Morrisons? That’s my sweeping generalisation of local youth done; next week I thought it’d be nice to explore how true it is.