With so much going on, we are now being informed, that along with the common cold and flu, the coronavirus will live among us and we need to adapt to living with it. It’s just as well adaptation is a constant human trait, and we are all skilled at it.
Not many of us escape the winter cold or infection, so we adapt our clothing to keep warm, while making wholesome nourishing food to sustain us. We invest in extra vitamins, stock up on paracetamol and lemons and make sure we have Vicks vapour rub available; just in case!
For extra comfort I swear by my Mam’s recipe for chicken soup – which I still make lovingly today. And I can remember as a child being well impressed when I saw the big pan come out, ready for a hearty feast of mince and dumplings!
If you have lived in Consett you will know that we constantly adapt to the weather! Being almost 900 feet above sea level and perched on the edge of the north Pennines the town gets its fair share of strong winds and below zero temperatures.
We may have experienced ‘the beast from the east’ in 2018, yet I’m not sure that competes with my memories of attempting to walk over snow drifts to St Patrick’s School at the beginning of 1963. At the tender age of six I was sent out alone in thick socks and wellies – which mercilessly drew in the cold to numb tiny toes – a fur lined bottle green duffle coat, bobble hat and gloves; yet still totally unequipped for what lay ahead.
Where the roads had been partially cleared by snow ploughs, mounds of compacted snow lined the side pavements next to deep drifts that were turning crispy and slippy as the thermometer plummeted.
As I struggled, trying to cross the road at the traffic lights opposite the Braes on my epic journey from Henley Gardens to Stanley Street, I remember how a huge gust of wind – combined with my over sized wellies sticking tightly in a snow drift – forced me to lose my balance; which resulted in the biting ice, flushing my cheeks as face forward I created my first reverse snow angel.
Battered by the experience – with hindsight I should have turned round and returned home – I made my way up Medomsley Road towards school. Once there, exhausted, along with the other pupils, I left my wellies and coat in the soggy porch and wet sock footed, trundled into the steamy windowed classroom.
I was lucky enough to have my PE kit hanging in a homemade drawstring gingham bag on the back of my chair. Yet for others who were not so lucky, their quest was to try and find a matching pair of footwear from the rancid rubber smelling sandshoe cupboard!
I remember feeling quite queasy as the door closed and the heat from the sturdy iron radiators circulated the pungent smell of drying damp socks and gloves, mixed with the sickly aroma of the iced topped milk bottles melting in a crate by the blackboard.
I never found this environment conducive to learning and I was already dreaming of going home, sitting by our coal fire in my warmed pyjamas and dressing gown.
At playtime we were allowed outside but banned from throwing snowballs, so we contented ourselves by rolling giant ones to make a snowman. Once back inside, we repeated lines from the catechism:
Who made you?
God made me.
Why did God make you?
God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him for ever in the next.
As I pondered over these words, I thought about my Nana, who always said we shouldn’t complain about any discomfort we feel; but remember to ‘offer it up for the holy souls’ So on this occasion I did; and hoped that those in purgatory were a little bit more comfortable than I was.
At long last is was home time, and even though my socks were as stiff as a board I rammed my feet into them and lined up to go home.
Delighted to see my Dad at the gate, I held his hand and steadied myself on the now frozen glistening snow, transfixed as the light faded slightly and the winter watery sun glazed the whiteness, making it look magical.
And there it was when I opened the door, the big pan on the stove top, bubbling away with the hypnotic smell of mince and dumplings!
My pyjamas were warming on the clothes horse, and placed on the little table next to the fire were two of my favourite things, a glass of hot blackcurrant and a boiled egg with butter, mashed up in a cup!