Snow, why does it have to be snow? I hate snow.

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There’s a bit in Raiders of the Lost Ark where our illustrious hero, Indiana Jones, peers down into the pit he’s about to enter. He spies a writhing mass of reptilian flesh before collapsing back, ashen faced. “Snakes, why does it have to be snakes?” That’s exactly how I feel about snow. The very sight of the stuff makes me feel bitterly cold to my core.

I explained my prejudices to Maisie, to which she responded “Yes Uncle Martin. Let’s go out and make snow babies!” So either she is already not listening to a word I say at the age of 3 or her aching, burning desire to have fun in the snow trumps my need to avoid frostbite. What exactly is a snow baby anyway? When I grew up, snow creatures only had one gender and they were always grown up.

She wouldn’t take no for an answer and before long we were playing in the snow. I started rolling a ball of snow in an attempt to make a snowman. The snow was far too powdery, and as soon as the ball reached any kind of respectable size, it collapsed in on itself. Maisie was not impressed. I tried to convince her of the inferior quality of the snow, but something in the look she gave me dispelled any notion that she might have believed me.

“Let’s go sledging” I said. In the absence of a purpose-built sledge, I reasoned that the lid of the recycling bin was roughly sledge shaped. Up the hill we trudged. When we got to the top, I gave Maisie a hearty shove. Her progress down the hill was much like that of a reluctant mule. The bin lid travelled slowly and stuttered to a stop with annoying regularity.

2013-01-19 14.45.02Drastic action was needed. A trip to the sledge shop was in order. The man at the shop mentally sized Maisie up before proposing a lime green plastic sledge with a lever on each side to control the brakes. Maisie’s face lit up. “My sledge has brakes!” In her mind, she already owned it. A short while later and we were back on the slopes.

This time, when we reached the top of the hill, a shove wasn’t needed. It was all we could do to hold the sledge in place. Once released, it flew down the hill like a rocket with Maisie squealing with delight. Did it soften my stance towards the cold stuff? No. But I might have secretly had a tiny bit of fun. Just don’t tell anyone.


Freezing cold folklore

English: A tree branch completely en-globed in...

English: A tree branch completely en-globed in freezing rain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some reason, my internal thermostat is completely broken. I’m the one that is thinking about maybe removing my jacket if it gets any warmer whilst the people around me are dripping in sweat. As a result, I really suffer from feeling the cold, which in this country, at this time of year, is no fun. Luckily December this year has been lovely and mild, but as we head into January, as sure as ice is ice, things are going to get a lot colder before they get warmer.

For the past few years, this country has had a really hard winter. I know that there are people out there who look at our 12 inches of snow and laugh because they are used to much hardier weather, but for us, it’s a big deal. I hate snow, because just looking at the stuff makes me feel cold. People ask me if I’ve ever been skiing, but the thought of hurtling down a hill on two flimsy bits of fibreglass in the freezing cold is not my idea of a good time.

I don’t know what’s made me this way. Maybe it’s because of some of the things people told me about the cold when I was growing up. “You can’t go out wearing that or you’ll catch your death” or “you need to dry your hair before you go out or you’ll freeze to death”. Despite ignoring both these sage pieces of advice, I don’t remember any near death experiences.

“You need to wear a hat, because 90% of body heat escapes through your head.” Really? Why am I bothering with all these clothes then? I’d be better off going out in just a hat. Somehow, I don’t believe a word of it. Even if I do put a hat on, it doesn’t stop me from shivering – it just means my ears are warm.

When I used to come in from the cold, I’d take my shoes off and rest my feet up against the radiator. “You don’t want to be doing that – you’ll get chilblains”. “You will – you know! And you don’t want chilblains!” Again, despite these warnings, I have never had a chilblain and I don’t know anyone who has.

My favourite has to be “It’s too cold to snow”. Really? Where did all that snow and ice at the North and South Poles come from then? I’m glad I’m writing this sitting next to a radiator, because otherwise, my teeth would start chattering.

We have an uninvited guest

Two mice; the mouse on the left has more fat s...

Two mice; the mouse on the left has more fat stores than the mouse on the right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What’s that noise?” I said to my wife one evening whilst we were watching TV.

“What noise?” she replied disinterested.

“There – can’t you hear it? A kind of scratching sound.”

Together we crept around to the kitchen to see if we could find the source of the noise. Anyone would think we were trying to catch a burglar in the act.

Eventually, we traced the noise to the medicine drawer. We exchanged “get ready” looks as I carefully grasped the handle of the drawer. I yanked the drawer open and scanned the interior.

I could see nothing but medicines, but judging by my wife’s scream and the way she was clutching my arm in a vice-like grip, she had obviously seen something. I slammed the drawer shut as fast as I’d opened it.

“What did you see?”

“A mouse!” she screamed.

I carefully eased the drawer back open to check the scene of the crime. I watched warily, for truth be told, I am only slightly less squeamish about rodents than my wife. The mouse had gone, probably scared off by the slam of the drawer, so we could sift through the contents. The mouse had eaten its way through an entire pack of paracetamol.

Confident that no mouse could eat that much paracetamol and survive, we thought that was that. However, our mouse is made of sterner stuff.

You would think that having a cat in the house would be sufficient deterrent against our rodent friend but unfortunately, mouse hunting is definitely not part of her job description. Lazing around on furniture – yes, miaowing a lot – definitely, making a nuisance of herself – indeed but absolutely nothing about rodents.

It was a while later when I went to feed said cat when reaching inside the cupboard containing her food, instead of coming across a box full of cat biscuits, I found a box with a big hole chewed in the side lying on top of a pile of cat biscuits.

The mouse had returned.

This time we were ready. Having invested in some mouse traps, we should now have the upper hand. Traps duly placed, it can only be a matter of time before our furry friend is an ex furry friend. Unfortunately though, not only can our mouse eat a whole ton of paracetamol and survive, he also has the survival skills of an SAS soldier and can spot a trap a mile away.

The hunt for this mouse is in danger of taking on Captain Ahab proportions.

The slowest, most amazing thing in the world

English: Mount Everest North Face as seen from...

English: Mount Everest North Face as seen from the path to the base camp, Tibet. Español: Cara norte del Monte Everest vista desde el sendero que lleva al campo base en el Tibet (China). Français : Face nord du Mont Everest vue du chemin menant au camp de base. Tibet. Italiano: Faccia Nord del monte Everest vista dal sentiero che porta al campo base in Tibet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every so often, Mother Nature gives us a short, sharp lesson in who’s boss. Whether it is the enormity of Hurricane Katrina or the tsunamis that have struck twice in recent history in Asia, these brutal events unfold with ferocity and yet when you see the video coverage, they seem to  move incredibly slowly. No doubt for the people on the ground facing them, they move plenty fast enough.

The sheer power of the forces involved is difficult to comprehend because most of the time, our landscape changes so very slowly. Our tectonic plates shift and collide (or separate) by distances that can be measured in centimetres every year. London sinks whilst the West of the UK rises. But when you look around at the scenery that surrounds us, every mountain, every hill and every valley has been formed by elemental, natural forces over an incomprehensible time period.

There is no shortage of impressive natural features in this world and they look wonderful in their own right, but once you understand how they came to be formed, they become even more epic in scale. The fjords of Norway were all cut by glaciers over millennia. The Grand Canyon was carved by the endless erosion of the Colorado river. The Alps and Himalayas formed by two tectonic plates squeezing together for a very long time.

There are experts who argue that mankind is causing irreversible damage to the planet and that climate change is a very real phenomena. The average temperature is rising and so are the sea levels. But there are as many experts that argue against climate change citing that temperatures and sea levels have a history of changing on a geological scale. I’m no expert but I’m certainly getting fed up of being rained on and I can’t help but feel that we’re not doing the planet any good.

I can only imagine that it must be frustrating to be a geologist – knowing that all these elemental forces have shaped the entire planet and that the best you can hope for is to see Mount Everest grow by about a foot in your lifetime.