Has there ever been a more stupid expression than that?
I spent my formative years hearing this from the lips of every adult I ever encountered. Knowing no better, I believed it to be true, and repeated it myself, without a vestige of embarrassment.
As winter arrived every year, pipes froze, and we huddled around insufficient heating in draughty rooms, we would look across at each other, nodding sagely. Before long, someone would say “Well, at least it’s too cold to snow”, and we would grin in agreement.
What was this fallacy based on? I cannot imagine the ancient Celts staring at the sky, shivering in woolen cloaks, and stating that at least there would be no snow. Perhaps an over-enthusiastic weather forecaster once said it, intending his remark to be humourous? Always ready to believe anything they are told by some authority figure, the people of this country kept repeating this meteorological mantra, until it became accepted as fact.
Right up until the age of 25, I said it more times than I care to mention. Even staring out of my window looking at two feet of snow covering the street, I would pronounce, “It must have warmed up. It’s been snowing”.
Then I went on holiday to Russia, in February.
I had never experienced cold like it. We arrived in a temperature of minus twenty (F), and it dropped down to minus twenty five within two days. Being outside for too long could freeze your cheeks, and people removed the windscreen wipers from their cars when they parked, so they would not freeze and crumble. The sea was frozen, in the Gulf of Finland. That was a sight to see, I can tell you. At the airport in Leningrad, as we queued to depart for Moscow, we had the unsettling vision of men with hammers and iron bars, pounding the ice off the wings of our waiting aircraft, so it wouldn’t be too heavy to take off.
But wait. It was snowing. Not a little snow, but snow deep enough to cover a person, were it not for the fact that a veritable army of people and machines laboured around the clock to shift it. I was very confused. It was colder than I had ever known it to be back in England, but still snowing. And it didn’t stop snowing.
I stood in that airport feeling like I had been duped for twenty-five years.
And I never let anyone get away with saying “It’s too cold for snow” again.