Thursday 6 August 2015

One Scoop or Two?

The last time it snowed like this in Hobart was July 25th 1986. Those old enough to remember – and a few who really weren’t – know it as “The Great Snow of ‘86”. It’s all relative of course. 8cm of snow is hardly “great” by world standards.

[Snow on kunanyi/Mt Wellington, August 2015] 
Yet for Hobart, with its mild maritime climate, snow is a rarity. Yes we can see it at any time of the year on our mountain, 1270m high kunanyi/Mt Wellington. But it’s when the snow comes to the suburbs that we Hobartians really make merry.

In 1986 my sister Liz and her two young daughters were visiting us from Sydney. It was her first winter visit, and she playfully expressed her wish that it would snow. Older and wiser, we assured her it “almost never” snowed down this far. And of course it did. Starting on Thursday night, and then well into Friday the 25th, it snowed hard, right down to sea level.

[Family snap of snow in our garden, July 1986] 
As my sister was only visiting for a short time, I’d already arranged to take the Friday off. Of course everyone in Hobart ended up having that day off. When snow is rare, people aren’t prepared for it. Buses and cars stayed off the roads; schools and some businesses shut down; a few hardy types skied to work, just because they could. But most people rugged up and went out to play.

I witnessed some of the frivolity first-hand because, Murphy’s Law being what it is, I’d run out of film for my camera. I chose to walk the 4km down the snow-bound road to buy some. On that excursion normally staid neighbours called out their glee, a few even taking snow ball pot-shots at me, all in good fun of course.

And so to August 2015. Snow to sea level was forecast for August the 3rd, and we woke to about 5cm of it at home. Our neighbours and their young children were soon out in the yard re-enacting the snow yahooing we’d done 29 years before.

[Morning snow on our garden, August 3rd, 2015] 
Lynne and I, still older and wiser, decided to stick to the usual and go for a walk in our bush. That was about all that was “usual” about the morning. What a different look and feel snow lends to the familiar!

Snow slanted down in flurries, covering our usual tracks, disguising the bush, threatening to disorientate us. Occasionally the icy wind bit hard into any exposed skin, then relented as the sun broke through. In that stillness, amid the muffled squeals of our neighbours and the caaarking of ravens, flakes of snow parachuted thick and slow around us. It was cold, certainly. And we were quite ready to get back to the fire and some hot coffee. But for now, there was nowhere we would rather be.

[Snow flurries in our bush] 
My sister died of a brain tumour too few years after “the Great Snow of ‘86”. Fast forward to August the 5th 2015, two days after this year’s first dump. Again snow was forecast to “low levels”. Given Monday’s dump, and Tuesday’s freezing, wet conditions, you might think we’d have grown tired of this cold interruption. Instead I found myself hoping for lots more. Perhaps some of Lizzie’s playfulness was rubbing off on me, because there was nothing older or wiser about this hope. I felt more like a child clutching a cone at the ice cream van, imploring mum or dad for a second “scoop”.

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