Monday 21 January 2013

Winters of old...

Before I start, thought I'd let you know how my beef goulash turned out. We had enough for us both for tea plus I was able to freeze another two double portions. DB had peas with his!

On Saturday evening, we settled down to view Winterwatch – Winter of 62-63 (or a title similar to this!)

It had Chris Packham doing the introduction and final part with a 45 minute documentary included.

As a child, I remember this winter but not how it was portrayed in this. I had no idea of how desperate things were around different parts of the countryside/towns/cities. It was amazing to see how much snow fell in such a short time. This combined with a slight thaw and even more snow must have made life very uncomfortable.

What I remember was loads of us children, cutting igloo style blocks of snow to make walls to hide behind whilst have prolonged snowball fights. Our feet were wet and cold and our hands red raw but we seemed to do this for hours. We had no special clothing to wear. Hand knitted mittens soon got wet and were dispensed with, likewise bobbly hats and scarves.

Not many of us had wellingtons and in such cold weather, other than keeping your feet dry, they didn't help with keeping the cold out. We got told off for getting our things wet and had to fill our shoes with newspaper to help them keep their shape as they dried in front of the fire. The steam rose off them and the clothes and we were wishing them dry so we could get back outside and start all over again.

Those were my only memories of that winter. Other winters though, are well remembered. We had no carpets in the bedroom to stand on first thing in the morning. You had to use your fingernails to scrape the ice off the inside of the window panes. 

You became very adept at getting dressed whilst still in bed. Going to bed was a little different, you undressed as quickly as possible then put on your pyjama's, leapt into an ice cold bed where you did one of two things. Either you curled into a tight ball, slowly unfurling as each bit of the bed became warm, or you did the bed time jiggle, quickly moving your limbs backwards and forwards to warm as much as the bed as possible.

No one knew about quilts instead we had sheets and blankets, a counterpane and eiderdown.

We had porridge for breakfast then walked to school (usually up to 2-3 miles away). I presume this didn't happen in that winter but I don't remember it not happening. The toilets at school were usually frozen so couldn't be flushed. The janitor could be seen taking kettles of boiling water to try and unfreeze the pipes. We played out in the snow every break, even if it was snowing hard, getting wet yet again. Huge slides would be created from one corner to another of the playground. No one ever put salt on them. It was considered character forming and once you learnt to slide, it was great fun.

The bell would be rung and in we would go. If you were lucky, the heating was working, if not, you envied those sitting close to the temporary heaters. Condensation quickly formed on the windows from all us wet bodies, slowing freezing and forming intricate patterns. Frozen bottles of milk had been brought indoors for early morning but it was often afternoon before they had thawed. Each had a 1 inch or so, risen icicle where it had come above the rim as it froze. The silver foil tops sitting astride at a topsy turvy angle.

Eventually it was home time and off we trudged. It was barely still light before we got home. Something nice and hot was served for tea, and if you were lucky, it wasn't bath night. Whilst we had got past the stage of tin baths in front of the fire (although some of my school mates still used these), the bathrooms were freezing places with barely warm water. After supper (a glass of milk and a biscuit if you were lucky), off you traipsed to bed to begin the cycle once more.


  1. I hadn't quite started school then so don't remember 1963 really. But do remember the wooden sledge that Dad made me. I have recently rediscovered the sheer joy of a hot water bottle, almost beats eating chocolate in bed! Xxx

  2. I was a curl into a ball girl,breathing through my mouth to create warm air under the covers! A few weeks ago there was something in the news about how temperatures shouldn't drop below a certain level if there are children in the house - how did we all survive? How did K survive? She was nearly 4 by the time we moved to a house with central heating - J was 30 and I was 27!

  3. :) can you imagine the youngsters of today doing all of that....we really are lucky nowadays

  4. Hello DC, your Goulash looks very yummy. I watched that programme on Saturday and remembered it exactly how it was portrayed. I was fifteen at the time and worked in London. I remember the awful train journeys which took hours to get there and then the same coming home. The River Thames froze over which was just at the end of our road on Canvey Island where we lived at the time. The snow laid in our road and garden until the end of April/early May.
    Patricia x

  5. Thanks for this trip down Memory Lane.

  6. I was born that winter. I also remember having to trudge to school in the snow-it was great fun.

  7. I remember all that plus.........the sea froze, huge blocks of ice on the beach.

  8. Fran, hot water bottle over chocolate, mmm, not sure.
    Scarlet, I was a curl in a ball girl as well.
    TSF, no can't imagine todays children doing that.
    Patricia, I don't remember much other than fighting with snow, all day every day nor can I remember the schools being shut.
    Syrahsuzie, you are most welcome.
    Gillibob, well, we certainly seemed to have more snowy winters back then.
    Bets, I wasn't near the sea at the time. Our fields all had water filled dykes around them which were frozen solid.

  9. I love this post its a real trip down memory lane, I would have been 9 that winter and can well remember the sore legs from wellingtons rubbing. Gloves or old socks dripping melted snow into the fire and hissing as we tried to dry them quickly. Dad was a miner and we had 2 coal fires the one in the kitchen had an oven and mum would wrap the solid shelves in newspaper then an old blanket and put them in our bed to warm it.My younger sister and I shared a double bed and quite often my little brother would jump in the middle and we would all sleep together to keep warm. I can't imagine the kids of today putting up with any of that, they are so used to central heating and computer games.

    Your goulash looks really yummy especially served with sprouts.


  10. Yes, I can relate to almost all of that. I had forgotten about the little third pints of milk with the silver tops. Sometimes the whole bottom of the bottle fell out after been frozen especially if they put them too near the radiator. I remember the chilblains - do people get those still those ? Wellies were so cold in the snow.
    The huge slides were amazing, we used to rub them our feet to get them really slippery. No one stopped us doing it; it was huge fun and even the clumsy kids did well - such a different world.

  11. Karen, that must really have warmed your bed. Yes, we sometimes all slept together in the same bed, 2 either end, certainly kept you warm but didn't like have feet in your face all that much, or being accidentally kicked in the face.
    Lizzie, the slides were great weren't they. I had forgotten about the bottom of the milk bottles falling out. At home, the lids were often pierced by the birds.

  12. Oh yes, I remember it well I was 12 and living in Buxton, Norfolk. We had a bathroom but it was a chilly place, we also had a "washhouse" with a copper in the corner that had a fire under it. Nan used to light it and boil up water and we had a tin bath in there, lovely and warm. Her excuse was that it made the bread dough rise so much quicker. There was an oven in the wall that also had a fire under, the bread was baked in there and was delicious. We had hot water bottles for the beds and thick flannel pyjamas.

  13. Your post brought back vivid memories of that Very Cold Time. We moved that winter, from Hertfordshire up to County Durham.On the journey we skidded on black ice and the car went into a ditch. Mum was in back seat cradling 3 month old baby brother- no baby seats or seat belts back then. A chauffeur driven car stopped to help - Mum, bro and I sat in the warm car with lady in mink coat [SO soft!] and she gave me my first ever REAL coffee from a Thermos, while Dad and Chauffeur flagged down a passing tractor and the farmer retrieved our car.

    I think I was cold for three months with no respite!!

    Praise the Lord for modern, lightweight, waterproof fleece lined jackets, duvets and central heating!!!

  14. Oh yes - you have certainly brought back some memories for me with this post - it seems we were a lot tougher then. I remember coming home from somewhere on a double decker bus but it couldn't get up the hills with all the passengers on - so we all had to get off - wait till the bus got up the hill, then all climb back on again. Such fun (as Miranda's mother would say).

  15. I was very warm that winter of 62-63, but then I was tucked up and did not emerge in to the bog wide world until 13 March 63! But my Mum apparently developed a wonderful waddle to keep upright! I do remember the winter of 78-79 which was pretty shivery in Norwich.. one day I walked from Glebe Road to Earlham school (quite a hike even in fine weather) only to arrive just in time to be sent home... grrr!

    Hope you are keeping warm, from my son and his friends I gather it has been a bit hairy over in the East


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