I’ve really enjoyed these last few days.
Thornton Heath came alive on Monday. The snow blew in overnight and, like the cool breath that follows an extra strong mint, did a great job of refreshing what had been feeling like a slightly stale, dog poo tainted community.
Everyone was out. School kids of all ages were pardoned for the day and met up in the street amazed by their freedom. Parents joined them and chatted happily to neighbours they maybe had never spoken to before. Workers returned home having found abandoned train stations and cancelled bus services.
Playful snowball fights took place at every crossroads, children from three to forty three joining in gleefully. Wasn’t it fun to pelt and be pelted by total strangers, with no malice, just pure delight?!
Snowmen, snow-women and snow-children were built with pride all over the area, in front gardens, on pavements, driveways and even, in Hamilton Road, slap bang in the middle of the road. A huge snowman, with small snow-child by his side, the story goes that a car drove right up to it and was met quickly by a young girl snowman-builder who pleaded the case for their stay and after a period of brief negotiation, the car backed up the entire street instead.
We met plenty of teenage boys and young men who had put their ‘cool’ to one side to create beautiful snowmen and women, one fashioned with a smile of golden gleaming buttons. In one garden a family had built an entire wall with sandcastle buckets of snow.
Tuesday was good too – not so much playing but people busying away clearing paths, lending spades to each other, helping to push cars. One man in Natal Road cleared one entire end of the road single-handedly, including the pavements. Later, after my asking the way, two boys escorted me and my daughter through a maze of narrow alleyways from Sainsburys back to Grangewood Park, where, loaded down with shopping, we stopped to watch children sledging on trays and builders bags.
On Wednesday I joined those returning to work, slipping and sliding down Woodville Road, everyone still in jovial mood, joking and laughing. And today, the big thaw has come, drains are gurgling and I still managed to catch a joke with a man round the corner about our slippery welly boots.
So the snowmen have melted, leaving solitary carrots dotted about in the sludge. And I’m still smiling, heartened by the realisation that our ‘community’ spirit is really never so very far away. It didn’t take much for us all to start talking, laughing and playing together did it? Just a bit of snow.