Dear Dave

Friday 6 February 2009

Snowball etiquette

Dear Dave,

Glad you weren't hugely affected by the snow this week and were only driven slightly mad by all the people wondering how come four inches of frozen precipitation causes the UK to shut down while other places regularly carry on as normal under four feet of the stuff.

Personally, I reckon the answer is that it's less effort coping with the infrequent chaos than trying to prevent it. In many parts of the country, heavy snow is only an issue for a handful of days every five or ten years. It's simply not worth devoting vast resources to dealing with it. Besides, it's nice occasionally having an excuse to skive off, stay home and laugh at reporters who've fought their way through treacherous conditions to stand at a busy junction in a blizzard merely to tell us not to make unnecessary journeys.

Of course, some areas are more vulnerable to the weather than others. One of the perks of growing up in rural Norfolk was that snow days were relatively common. In a place so flat that grassy banks at the edge of the road constitute major topographical features, it doesn't take much wind to fill minor highways with drifts. We got two or three days off every other year. Getting to miss lessons and make snowmen instead was one of the highlights of my childhood.

In contrast, it hardly ever snows in Edinburgh. When it does, it's usually during the middle of a day when the kids are at school. By the time they come out, we're lucky if there's enough left to scrape together a snowgnome, let alone a proper snowman.

This week, though, there was actually just about sufficient quantity for a proper snowball fight even at home-time. We raced to the swing-park for some wintry combat before other children used up all the ammo.

Bizarrely, however, everyone else went home rather than making the most of the pristine, quarter-inch layer of snow that had settled on the spongy bits of surfacing around the climbing frames and roundabouts. We were nearly the only ones there.

As it turned out, this was for the best.

We've had so little snow the last few years, Fraser didn't grasp the basic rules of snowball etiquette:
  1. Don't scoop snow from next to the wall at the edge of the pavement where dogs normally do their business. This is quite an important one. Remember, if you can't see the poo, that doesn't mean it's not there. Having been raised on a dairy farm, I know this to my cost...

  2. Don't throw snowballs at adults you aren't familiar with. And while you're at it, try to avoid their toddlers, dogs, cars and elderly relatives.

  3. Don't throw snowballs in someone's face. Especially from six inches. (Although Fraser did do better than my best friend at his age, who failed to let go of the snowball entirely. That was sore.)

  4. If your snowball is bigger than your opponent's head, then it's too large. It just is.

  5. If your opponent is already crying because you've recently ignored rules 3 & 4 at the same time, don't throw another snowball at them. It may be fun but it won't endear you to your friends and siblings...
Goodness, I spent half the time we were there keeping him out of trouble. How can something as simple as a snowball fight be so difficult?

I'm sure there were some other rules as well. There were definitely some extra recommendations. For instance, I couldn't help suggesting that crouching to scoop up snowballs was a smarter plan than kneeling. No one listened. It was chaos.

I suppose things might have gone more smoothly if I'd drawn up a list of the rules in the Autumn and talked it over with my children so they were ready when the snow fell. Also, perhaps I should have gone to the expense of kitting them all out in waterproofs. We muddled through, though, and the kids enjoyed themselves (even if they were grumbling loudly about their cold, wet knees for most of the journey home).

Still, maybe I ought to put a plan in place for next year, just in case...

(Yeah, right.)

Yours in a woman's world,


PS If you thought we had it bad with snow on the roads, spare a thought for the people of Austin, Texas the other week:

Zombies Ahead road-sign.


Anonymous said...

Hmpff. I missed the zombies. AGAIN.

I call in sick every time it snows here. I could deal with the snow but it is much more exciting to say that I am snowed in.

And snowball etiquette is for wimps. He was playing the tough guy version. Manly.

DadsDinner said...

As a rule of thumb, I feel kids should be dissuaded from playing the tough guy version of snowballing if they cry every time three drips of cold water go down the back of their neck. Sprog1, manly? I don't think so...