Winter Memories

Its that time of the year when winter is the season.

For those of us who have been lucky enough to experience winter, I ask you, can we ever forget the thrill of that very first time, when we held out our hands to catch the falling snow only to see them melt  straight after? Can we also forget the thrill of seeing snow falling all around you, just like in the movies or the tv shows you see on TV? Or even playing football in the snow and watching your very own dragon fumes, like those football players you had watch on TV when you were a little boy ?

I doubt you can ever forget the experience. I am glad to say I am one of those lucky ones, having had experienced winter in both the United Kingdom and Germany but I must admit, although I have always enjoyed winter, that very first winter will always be the best and the most unforgettable.

My very first winter was the winter of 1978. I was then residing in a small English town in Norfolk called King’s Lynn. Together with fourteen others, I was doing my A Levels, on a scholarship courtesy of the Public Services Department (PSD) at a college called the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology (NORCAT).

For the winter holidays, we had all gone and stayed at the old Malaysia Hall in Bryanston Square in London. We did not stay at Malaysia Hall long though, no more than a week, I believe but it was a week to remember. We stayed in London over Christmas and was back in King’s Lynn before the New Year.

I must point out that in King’s Lynn, all of us, except two of the guys, were billeted with foster families. The two guys mentioned were lucky enough to be given a house all to themselves by their landlady, which they shared with another student from Iran. They had a kitchen and their very own TV set whilst the rest of us, well our lives were not really our own.

Our meals were prepared for us by our respective landladies, under advisement of course. It was okey, I guess, but naturally, over time, we develop a craving for Malaysian food. This craving can at times become unbearable and it was only appeased by our once-a-month cooking sessions at our friends’ house. Of course, house rule applies ie hosts do not have to cook.

Anyway, during our stay at Malaysia Hall, we made it a point not to miss meal times, when possible. Our sightseeing schedules, be it to Oxford Street, Hyde Park, Madame Tussaud, Westminster, or even Trafalgar Square were planned well enough so that we be back at Malaysia Hall at meal times. Not only was it cheap and halal, it was Malaysian food. Food that we had dearly missed.

It was on one of those days when we were in London that the first snow flakes of winter fell. It needs to be mentioned that it almost never snows in London, so much so that the bookmakers can confidently take bets for a white Christmas with generous odds. And the bookmakers win every year. But that year, the bookmakers lost.

Being in the last few years of our teens and it being also the first time we ever encountered snow, we had such terrible fun playing with snow especially at Hyde Park. We had so much fun that passers-by just smiled that all-knowing smile at us. Ah, snow virgins!

We also learn how to snowball fight fast. With anyone. Of course, we had to make sure the snow was not so condensely packed otherwise you might start a real war, with bruises to show for it.

Looking back, the arrival of snow does make people sometimes do stupid things. It loosens you up, to get out of that straight jacket and to have fun. Some of us even attempted to their signatures in the snow. It turned out to be quite a steamy affair. Not only did it turn out hilarious but the result was also quite a numbing failure. But we never tried skating or even sliding on the frozen lakes, having been forewarned of potentially of ice breaking problems.

If we thought it was such fun in London, it was so much more back in King’s Lynn. It snowed so heavily that year that the school holidays had to be extended by another two or three weeks. We tried sledging down a small hill using just a cardboard box. We tried playing football but had to give it up after a short while as the ball sort of develop a rock hard sheen around it.

That winter of 1978 was also dubbed ‘The Winter of Discontent’ as trade unions went on a nationwide strike. Snow could not be cleared and so the roads were not safe. The railroads were not passable. Basically, people just stayed indoors.

Rubbish too was left uncollected but thank God it was winter and therefore, no maggots. Nevertheless, it was still inconvenient.

But for most of us, in the warmth and comfort of our homes, we didn’t mind the hassle of it all. It was our very first winter and we sure had had a ball.

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