Snow shovels and dustpans

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Earlier this year, Great Britain was almost wholly interred in snow. From its tips to its toes it lay under a freezing duvet, its inhabitants gradually accumulating as many snow stories as there were bomb stories in the last war, and also, one is glad to know, demonstrating adaptability and inventiveness in all necessary matters such as staying alive. The country was agog with courage and enterprise.

However, for those of us who, because we were living in cities (which are always warmer owing to all that boiling bath water running along the drains) and thus were not battling through ten-foot drifts to rescue pregnant women from lonely farms; for those of us who, simply, could not go to work or to the shops because we could not stand up or get our cars to proceed in straight lines along the icy streets, those snowbound days threatened to be of unsurpassed boredom.

Instead of rushing actively about our businesses we were encapsulated in our homes and thrown, with unheralded force, upon ourselves. For a few days we did little but stare mournfully out of the window, with occasional slippery sorties to pour hot water into our car door keyholes. But then -- and this seems to have happened to hundreds of people -- resourcefulness prevailed, and spurred on by ennui we flung ourselves, months too soon, into an orgy of spring cleaning.

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Spring cleaning usually coincides with other activities and tends to be done in bits. But on this occasion there were no alternatives and we gave it our undivided attention for days on end. It is doubtful whether British homes (all those, that is to say, that were not flooded up to their table tops when the snow melted) have ever been in such wonderful trim as they are at this moment. Not only are walls washed down and carpets cleaned, but drawers full of documents that hadn't been looked at for decades have had their contents perused and largely destroyed. In the snowy silence of those lonely days the sound of tearing paper was deafening.

All the little postponed jobs were at last accomplished: the door handles fixed, years of photographs stuck into albums, the fluff under the guest room bed coaxed out into a dustpan, letters written to friends in Australia, buttons sewn on, cupboards tidied, china ornaments washed, books rearranged and wills rewritten.

For the fortunate majority who only suffered incarceration, the wintry blizzards provided a golden, or rather a white, opportunity to make home, sweet home, sweeter than ever. The only tiny worry being that one may just possibly have thrown one's passport out with the 1979 Christmas cards. Along with the snow, it has disappeared.

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