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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country
TOO much snow can drive a person crazy. Literally.
There is a little-known condition called Pibloktoq, a specific type of hysteria often experienced by people living in the Arctic.
It causes a wide range of symptoms, including uncontrollable, wild behaviour, the onset of echolalia (senseless repetition of words) and an insensitivity to the cold which encourages many sufferers to run around naked in the great outdoors.
Snow joke. Google it if you don’t believe me.
I’m surprised this is an affliction reserved solely for the Inuit, however. If you ask me, most children in the UK experience this type of delirium when the first flakes fall.
When the flurry began in Suffolk, my son was the first to display traits of mania.
He burst into our bedroom at 5am, waving his arms above his head and shrieking “snow, snow, snow, snow” at the top of his voice.
“It’s the middle of the night,” grunted my husband, pulling the pillow over his head.
But there was no calming the fervour.
Before we knew it he had run downstairs, pulled on a pair of wellies and was dancing round the garden in his pyjamas.
It’s very easy as an adult to forget the childhood joy of a winter wonderland.
We get bogged down in the misery of blizzards and black ice.
Will the car start? Are the schools open? Have we got enough bread and milk? Where are the gloves, hats, scarves, thermal undies?
And in this country we are particularly bad at coping with extreme weather, which does not help matters.
As soon as the big freeze kicks in, motorways grind to a halt, airports shut down, rail passengers are stranded and councils get a kicking for failing to grit the roads properly.
The Met Office issues hysterical warnings that we should all stay indoors and travel only if necessary.
As a result the economy takes a hit as many employees can’t (or won’t) make it to work and some businesses are forced to close temporarily.
I appreciate the fact that snow causes chaos. I really do. But it isn’t really a shocker that we are enduring a blast of winter in January, is it? And don’t you wonder what the Canadians would make of our panic? After all, they seem to manage perfectly well in a country with weather conditions a lot harsher than ours.
I reckon it’s high-time we accept that snow is a fact of life in Britain. And do our best to embrace it.
I mean, isn’t there a part of you that finds the break from normality just the teeniest bit thrilling?
Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s inconvenient.
And I apologise if you are reading this and got stuck in a snowdrift on the A12, or your boiler is on the blink or your cupboards are bare and you can’t get to the shop. I really do.
But honestly, for most of us, is this white hush such a bad thing?
If you ask me, it’s a glimmer of excitement in the drudgery of the winter months following Christmas; it’s an excuse to indulge in the deliciousness of hot chocolate; it magnifies the delight of being snuggled up indoors in front of a roaring fire; it’s a reason to shun fashion and don a wooly hat; it forces us to stop rushing around and take things slow.
But above all, it’s an opportunity to act like a kid again.
In the past week I have tried to emulate my children’s irrepressible glee by joining in with all their activities and it’s made me feel five years old all over again. We built a snowman and took the sledge for a spin down every slope in walking distance of the house.
The kids hid behind the dustbins to bombard my husband with snowballs as he returned from work.
With age comes superior aim, reflexes and dodging abilities, however, so they ended up covered and he walked away unscathed.
All in all it’s been a great deal of fun.
And my children are not the only ones suffering from a bout of Pibloktoq.
Each morning when I wake up to a fresh fall of snow I feel a new flush of wonder.
If you ask me, there is something truly magical about a world that sparkles. Where the blanket of white has left everything crisp and shiny.
I might not feel the same way in a week, when we are just left with grey sludge and slippery pavements. But for now I’m just going to snow with the flow.
Please email me at EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.