Snow etiquette

Yesterday afternoon I crossed the street where I live to meet some friends for Sunday lunch. Across the street is as far as I was prepared to go, because the pavements were covered in a sludgy, slimy, disconcertingly slippy sludge. The snow that had fallen the previous night, had already been turned into an unsightly and slightly tricky to walk on mess.

The friends I met all grew up near me, and I’ve written before how little snow we all experienced as children. The result was that as people walked perfectly normally in little slip-on ballet pumps or ran in flourescent lycra tops, we all shuffled tentatively through it like the elderly. We’re not practised with snow. We didn’t have snow days when we were growing up. We didn’t have several downfalls every winter. There were no hills to toboggan down. We had to drive if we wanted to play in the snow. As people from a mild and wet part of the north west, we don’t do cold and wet.

It could be worse. On Saturday night, as the snow fell and the pubs emptied, a group of Aussies started a good-natured snowball fight on the street outside. So far, so fine. They’re an exuberant race though, those Australians, and in their enthusiasm they started to throw snowballs at other passers-by. Surely this turned into a great community bonding experience that united all local snow walkers in the fun and delight of snowfall? But as it turns out, um, no. Not really.

Having had snowballs thrown at me in previous years ‘for fun’ by strangers, when all you’re trying to do is keep your head down and get somewhere where it’s warm, it’s not that much fun. One of these unfortunate snow victims didn’t find it particularly funny on Saturday night either, and the snowball fight turned into a comedy real fight, with one angry man trying to chase the thrower up the street without slipping, and his mates hobbling after him shouting ‘Glen! Glen!’ halfheartedly.

When you’re kids you learn how to avoid a snowball fight from turning into a real fight. There are unspoken rules – don’t thrown snow at strangers, don’t put rocks in your snowballs, don’t throw snow in people’s faces, don’t make girls cry… No snow had fallen on these Aussies when they were kids either. But unlike us, I guess their parents couldn’t drive them an hour inland to build a snowman and learn the rules of snow etiquette.


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