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The Day Before Yesterday: 44 – White After Christmas

Gladys Schofield remembers the great snow during a wartime winter.

To read earlier chapters of Gladys’s story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_day_before_yesterday/

About this time my husband's younger brother, Reg, called to see us. He had been put to work as a gardener, unusual for a young lad. Although he liked this, he wanted some work that paid a bit more and had taken a job at the same mill that I still worked at.

Sixteen is an unsettling age for anyone and Reg wanted to live with us, which was a big responsibility for us. We talked it over and decided to give it a try. I liked the lad anyway and had always got on with him, so we got a lodger. Aunty Miriam's single bed was coming in useful again.

Most of his spare time was spent with his friends, apart from meal times and bed time. He was very appreciative of the things we did for him. Winter came around and I gave up work. We hadn't spent a Christmas together yet and as we had no children yet, wondered if we should go to all the fuss of trimmings and tree, as the war didn't give us much to celebrate about.

The Recruiting Offices were full of young eighteen-year-olds, much too eager, joining the forces. Not really knowing what they were letting themselves into. It wasn't compulsory until twenty and then it could be months before all was sorted out and they had to go, so I wondered why all the rush. Some, I suppose, so they could choose which branch of the forces they preferred, or regiment, as they tended to be sent where they were needed later on.

Reg had been listening to our line of thought. Interrupting, he said, "Why not celebrate it? It would be ‘narse’ to have a tree an’ trimmings." (in his broad Yorkshire accent). So that was decided on. We bought an artificial tree and trimmed the house, and I made my first Christmas cake and mince pies. Maybe I have improved with age. My first ones were enjoyed just as much. We had a lovely Christmas just like three children, and Mum invited us to Christmas dinner.

In January 1940 it snowed and snowed and didn't give up until it reached the wail tops. Huge drifts banked up against the sides of houses. It was the deepest for many years and almost brought things in the countryside to a standstill.

They were well prepared in the towns. A snow plough would run all night, keeping the busy roads clear and forming deep drifts at the side of each road. The buses also ran all night at this time, keeping the track open.

In the country we had none of this, and each person cut a track for himself until the snow got compacted enough to stand your weight. It was like a wonderland but one we would rather be without, and only one man would venture far. He had a lorry and lived across the road to the large store (the Co-op). He carried everything on that, from groceries to coal, to the stranded people. He was a pleasant man with a wide smile and nothing daunted him. He risked life and limb as he travelled to help. No one else could have done as he did.

It lasted many weeks. You got used to it in time, although it was hard to tell sometimes where the walls were in the fields and where the snowdrift ended. It's a wonder no one died; we must have been a tough lot.

When I ventured out it had got quite easy, the wind had moved a lot of the snow, and paths of well trodden snow made it easy. They all went in the one direction to the Co-op, the butcher and the fish and chip shop.

I found at this time I was having to rush back home to spend a penny and, thinking it must be the cold, took no notice at first. It soon became apparent there was another reason. I was pregnant and would not be returning to work after the winter after all.

I was very surprised as the months had gone by after our wedding. I had reached the conclusion I was deformed or something, as I hadn't conceived before this. After all, the doctor had said the painful periods I suffered, would end as soon as I had a baby. So why the delay? We had done our part.

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