A Snowy Christmas in Wales

by David Gregorie

It was the first time I had seen real snow falling and I was entranced. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The big white flakes fell steadily from eleven o’clock till four and I couldn’t concentrate on my work. My eyes kept straying to the window.

I rode home through the snow and the air was thick with it. The road was deep in snow and I ploughed my own track through it. The houses, with their snowy hats and eyebrows, frowned down on snowy streets. All the hedges and the walls in front of the houses had their little snowy caps and the lawns were white with it.

It snowed for three days, on and off, until there were deep drifts in sheltered places. Then it froze. I’d never seen a frost like it. There was a broad pond on my way to work, and I saw a dog running across it on the ice.

More snow. Lashings of it. A real blizzard. Snow ploughs kept the main streets clear, but Alan couldn’t get his milk van through to the top end of town, even with chains on the wheels. I watched a double-decker bus spin out of control as it crept down the icy slope of Weston Hill. It was well into its second spin when it fetched up against the roundabout with a thump. I was amazed that it didn’t flip over.

It thawed and froze again. On my way home one night I struck a patch of black ice on the road. One minute I was upright, a second later I was sliding across the road on my back, the bike lying on its side and roaring its head off. I stood up, hauled the bike up off the ground and carried on.

Alan and I got up early on Christmas morning to do the milk round. He’d left a small spirit lamp burning under the sump the night before to keep the oil warm, and the engine started quite easily. The day was cold but fine and the roads were clear. We had the time of our lives.

I’d done the round with Alan several times before and I knew it fairly well. He drove the van and I sat on the back, delivering the milk to the icy doorsteps… “Two pints and a half to 67, Dave… A pint of TT and a pint of ordinary at the green gate on the corner, Dave…,” and Dave was off with a rush before the van stopped moving.

By mid-morning we’d got to the part of town where most of Alan’s friends lived. At the first house we were given a rum, at the second a gin-and-vermouth, the third a port, the fourth a sherry… By one o’clock I was sitting on the back swinging my gumbooted legs in time with the Maori songs I sang — more or less coherently and rather less in tune.

We were a little late for dinner, but what a dinner Margaret had prepared for us — chicken with sage-and-onion stuffing and all the trimmings, followed by a big plum duff with silver threepenny bits in it and rum sauce. And wonderful presents for everyone!

They said it was the worst winter for 27 years, but it was the best Christmas ever.