And so I've come full circle. When I began this blog three years ago I was inspired to put finger to keyboard by a day in which London was transformed; all usual activities were disrupted and the city's inhabitants began to behave rather oddly. It was the day it snowed. (You can read the post where it all began here.) And now exactly three years later I am still writing. I have moved in and out of three homes, I have begun and completed a degree (losing a small amount of mental stability in the process), I have obtained a new job and a mortgage. After two and a half years in South-West London, I have become a proud North Londoner. So much has changed in my life, but each time it snows here in London it is three years ago, and I am back in Putney experiencing my first proper city snowfall.
Snow has a peculiar effect on a city in which it is unfamiliar. Transport disruption and laughable footwear aside, it has a pleasingly calming influence on the pace of life here in London. As the snow sneakily fell while London was cosily indoors last night I peaked out into my street. I felt the same thrill I have experienced since I was very young seeing the transformed scene outside. The light was surprisingly bright for a wintery night, as the lamposts shone yellow through the falling flakes.
Snow has its most profound effect on the city's population. For example, yesterday, instead of mooching around the neighbourhood in hoodies looking disreputable the local youth spend their Saturday night tossing snowballs at one another in the street; abandonning their attempts to look cool and dangerous to laugh and dance awkwardly out of the way of icy missiles. Even animals are not immune to the influence of snow. The kitten who lives downstairs was entirely bemused by what had happened to his garden, and spent a while poking at this odd stuff that carpeted the space where his lawn used to be. (Indeed, he seemed to apply far more caution to strolling across his garden in the snow than he does any of his other actions; he spends most of his days falling sideways off a high trellis into the garden next door. He is single-handedly- or single-pawedly, I suppose - working to dispel the myth that cats always land on their feet!)
I am unable to resist the allure of a crisp pavement full of snow and love a good stomp around in it. However, simply leaving my flat to put out the rubbish this morning, I slipped on my top step and crashed unceremoniously down the short flight, landing without much grace on the pavement below, sodden and bruised. I limped back up to my flat, changed out of my snowy garments, and grabbed my wellies. I would not be put off by snow's more treacherous side! Having made it safely down the steps finally, I headed to Hampstead Heath to see how the rest of North London was enjoying the weather. And how they were enjoying themselves!
Parliament Hill was crawling with booted, bobble-hatted Londoners engaged in some serious sledging. Flattened, and in some places bare, grooves were worn into the side of the hill, where all manner of sledging vehicles had traversed the snow. Sledgers were leaving the Heath as I walked towards it, red-faced, rather damp children riding along the pavements on sledges dragged by cold-looking parents. Some sledges were rather elegant wooden numbers, whilst others were thin gaudy-coloured plastic. Plenty of people had eschewed traditional sledges in favour of a number of random objects they'd clearly found lying around the house. Trays of varying shapes and sizes hurtled down the snow, the round ones spinning their riders in circles. I even saw a semi-inflated air matress being borne back down towards Kentish Town. A large group of ill-clad students milled about at the foot of the Parliament Hill slope, each with a bottle of beer in one hand and a black recycling box lid in the other. Clad in luminous snow-gear a pair of snow-boarders made their way slowly down the hill, looking disparagingly at the whooping sledgers who were taking things far less seriously, and ruining their ride.
Dodging the sporting Londoners I made my own way down the hill, spotting secondary activities such as snowman-building and igloo-carving in action. Dogs bounced and snuffled in the drifts and the keenest of runners slipped and slid along the well-trodded pathways in their bright lycra. Chilly swans and somewhat bemused-looking ducks waddled across Highgate Ponds which were frozen solid. As the evening advanced the Heath seemed to blur around the edges, as a cold, vaguely pink haze settled over the city. I sloshed my way home through the already melting snow and ice, smiling at the fun of kicking up snow with my feet cosy and dry inside my wellies. Who knows how long the snow will last this time, but next year it will return and London will sledge and build snowmen and teeter on silly shoes in the slush and forget to be sensible and cool. Snow brings out the city's collective inner child. I wonder how many Londoners will make their excuses and 'bunk off school' tomorrow to play in the snow some more.