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My Life Below Zero...

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
We moved to Scotland from London in 1955, it was February, the house was cold with ice on the inside of the windows. So that was my introduction to freezing conditions. A coal fire was duly lit but the draft  lifted the rugs off the floor, so it wasn't long before we went 'all electric'. Eventually to under carpet heating!
Paraffin heaters were a permanent, if smelly, addition to the hallway (top and bottom of the stairs)  and the kitchen - with a hurricane lamp in the bathroom. All these were carefully maintained by my dad in order to eliminate the odour. Yet the ice continued to coat the interior of the metal cased window frames.
I don't recall ever not being able to attend school. Okay so the buses couldn't get up Quarrybank Hill, so I walked. First to primary school ..about a mile and a half away. Then to secondary school ...about three miles away. I was always equipped with a 'winter wardrobe' ( something I've adhered to over the years). My mother made me a superb wool duffle coat with lining featuring Chinese dragons !! I was made to wear over- boots ( I hated them, but now understand their necessity).
We played out. Built igloos. Had snowball fights. Cleared paths. Made 'slides'. I skated outdoors. Taking two buses , carrying my gear and a sweeping brush I went to the Duthie park boating pond which was only about a foot deep and froze nicely.
We walked to the shops, library, town, on dates...everywhere ! I still love walking in crisp, virgin snow with gentle snowflakes fluttering down. It's magical.
My first teaching job was in Kingussie in the Cairngorm mountains. The digs I stayed in had no central heating but a coal fire was lit in the kitchen for breakfast time and in the lounge in the evenings. A single bar electric fire was put at the top of the stairs. I went to bed like Nanook of the North! Even making myself a flannelette sleeping bag that I put between the crisp cotton sheets of my bed - and removed each morning in case the landlady saw it !! Often the then main road would become silent and I'd walk down the driveway , onto this road and walk wondrously along the centre, relishing the darkness , solitude and cold stillness as the snow fell thickly.
After I married I lived in a cottage three miles out of Kingussie and often in the winter I found myself being sent home on school transport ...namely a breakdown pick up truck that ploughed its way gamely through the drifts. Then usually I was stranded in the cottage for days till a snowplough got through.
When I moved to Berkshire ( later Oxfordshire) I thought that the winters might not be so severe. How wrong I was! We lived in a prefab in sight of the Chilton Downs, and boy did we cop for cold weather! Frosts were severe and copious amounts of snow fell in the winter. The Parkray fire was kept going Day and night , topped up with a delivery of logs. My husband ran a couple of radiators off the system to take the chill off the bedrooms. One memorable winter the temperature dropped to -17 !! Ice formed inside the front door, despite having a double burner paraffin heater going in the hall!
I returned to Scotland in 1993 to live in Buckie in a house overlooking the Moray Firth. Once again a large Parkray fire was fitted in and we ran 10 radiators off it. All the summer we would collect timber off the beach , or where trees were being cut by the forestry commission ( we asked for the bits they didn't want ) . Together we'd collect and cut on the shore if we could, I'd carry the logs to the car or van and load that up. Getting home the timber would be unloaded and stacked up to dry and season. We reckoned on having 4 tons of wood to see us through the winter ! After a storm we would scour the coastline for washed up timber.
After 14 years my husband decided that he'd never come to terms with the long winters up north ( he came from Oxford) and thus it was that we found ourselves in Cleveleys. He said winter here was the difference between a jacket and an overcoat!
However as soon as it's frosty and snowing I'm out like a shot. I adore that crisp snow that crunches under your feet. I love to see the hills covered in snow with clear, blue sunny skies overhead.
Just like this week! Can't wait for the weekend. I have plans to walk in the snow .....
My Life Below Zero...
Generate Heat
Driftwood washed up on the beach. Haul it up the shore, within reach. Put on safety goggles. Start the chainsaw. Generate heat.
Fill the van with fresh cut wood. The scent of resin is true and good. Start up the engine. Set off home. Generate heat.
Stack the timber against the wall, Log upon log, neat and tall. Fill up a basket. Take to the fire. Generate heat.
  Thanks for reading, Kath
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