December Diary (part 1)

8 12 2010

It seems that I have neglected this blog for some time, but the main reason for this is that we haven’t been out photographing stained glass windows since the spring and I had kind of forgotten that I’d originally planned to keep this one going with photo outings of other kinds as well.  So in order to try to remedy the situation, I thought that maybe a monthly ‘diary’ entry would be useful.  A photographic diary that is.

Snow

Snow on the Isle of Wight - twice in one year!

December began rather startlingly with a downfall of snow.  “We don’t get snow on the Isle of Wight”.  Well that statement might need to be revised as we’ve had snow twice this year – a heavy fall which lasted over a week in early January, and now this, admittedly shorter-lived, covering – and before Christmas!

When I moved to the island in 1993 my daughter was just two years old and I was looking forward to us making our first snowman together that winter.  Everyone laughed at me when I mentioned this and I was told that it never snows here.  Well we did get a light dusting three times that winter and everyone blamed me!  We made our tiny snowman and that was that for several years.

Window

Snow transforms everything - I love it!

There must have been another light snowfall after she started school because I remember taking her up the road in less than an inch of the stuff to be surprised at the school gate when I was told the school was shut!  I’d never heard anything like it and couldn’t understand it.  When I was a child we’d go to school in the snow, or if it was really bad we’d walk up there to get homework.  I suppose nowadays teachers don’t live nearby and of course the ‘Elf & Safety’ brigade probably have something to say about it all.  Still, considering the number of 4x4s that are apparently necessary to take children to school, a little snow shouldn’t be any trouble at all.

Anyway (before I descend into a rant) the snow this December was what we would call ‘wet snow’ as opposed to what my grandfather used to call ‘Continental snow’.  This wet stuff falls loosely and only sticks around because it freezes.  It usually provides an even layer and can disappear as quickly as it arrives.  ‘Continental snow’ is more ‘powdery’ and it drifts well.  The resulting layers are more compact and it stays for ages – this is what we had in January.

Icicles

It was freezing!

So the snow of the night of December 1st surprised a few people as the previous settled-for-more-than-a-day snow here (if memory serves) had been in 1997.  It delighted many more people the next day.  The park was full of adults and children playing in it that Thursday, but it was not as good as January’s fall for snowballs and snowmen.  There was still some of it about on the Friday but that night the rain began and I could hear the icicles breaking off and landing outside my house.  The sound of running water and further dripping confirmed that the thaw had begun and by Saturday morning, barring a few patches on fields and on the hills, the snow had gone.

Fog

Fog hanging over Newport at midnight

It was still bitterly cold though and there were mutterings that it would snow again.  On Sunday afternoon I read reports online of fog in East Cowes, but the skies were clear in Newport.  However, by the time it was dark it had reached us and the air was icy.  By the end of Sunday night there was an eerie glow everywhere and combined with the very still water of the high tide (it was a new moon), Newport actually looked quite pretty.

Since then the sun has tried its best to peep through the clouds but it’s struggling and it still feels very icy.  Portsmouth had some glorious sunshine the other day but on my return I could see that there was still heavy cloud over the island (the fabled “own weather system” clearly visible).  However, I did manage to stop on the way back over the downs to take a few shots of the hazy valley below.  If we get a clear morning this week I think there are going to be some spectacular sun and mist shots to be had.  But probably not to be taken by me.  I don’t do mornings.

Hazy view

Hazy view across the Arreton Valley

Part 2

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Let it snow! – Tue 5th Jan

8 01 2010

I have lived on the Isle of Wight since 1993.  I remember the first winter – my daughter was two and a half years old and I was chatting to people about how she was now old enough to have a go at making a snowman.  People laughed and told me that it didn’t snow on the Isle of Wight.  It did that winter – three times.  The first and the third time it was wet slushy snow, and the second time it was the crisper “continental snow” (as my grandfather used to call it).  None of the falls lasted long, though we did manage a tiny tiny snowman in our front garden on one of the days.  A few years later, when she was of school age, I took her to school one morning after a very light fall of snow and was very surprised to hear that this was sufficient to close the school.

Since then it’s been a rather disappointing affair.  1997 saw a reasonable fall that lasted more than a day.  All I remember from that was that my daughter was staying with a friend and I was at my mother’s in Newport.  That morning I went to work and was amused to see the imprints of my boss’s stilletto heels in the virgin snow ahead of me.  We were the only ones in so took some work home that day.  Everything was back to normal the day after.

Tuesday evening rush-hour, and the snow began to fall.

So you can imagine my delight when on Tuesday evening the snow outside began to settle on the ground.  For over a week I had been reading of the snow that other people had – it was being announced everywhere on Facebook and Twitter, and my British Flickr contacts were adding their snowy photos to those of my contacts in north America.  I was jealous.  I still miss the snow every winter.

My friend phoned me to say that her teenage daughter and her friend had come into Newport for the cinema and that they were stuck.  After a few calls, and after she had waited for her friend to organise for her father to collect her, she came to our house for the night.  She and my daughter know each other well so no problems there.

By 9pm the snow had become quite thick on the ground.

The snow fell steadily for several hours and even though I was meant to be concentrating on finishing my dissertation for uni, I was too excited.  I had to go outside and get some more photos.  I got all togged up properly this time, wellies and all.  It wasn’t too cold outside either so I grabbed my old faithful Olympus SP510 and headed out – the girls came too.

Snowed Under - the Police were working hard to keep the traffic safe and moving

The Police were out helping motorists where necessary and directing them to places where they could park up.  They closed Snook’s Hill – a steep hill that leads on to the largest junction on the Isle of Wight – because it was becoming dangerous.  Already some vehicles had been abandoned and the Church on the Roundabout had its doors open and they were offering hot cups of tea to all who needed them – including the police officers who had been out in the weather for hours.  I popped my head in the door to see if they had enough teabags, and a rather proprietorial looking lady said that they did.  I moved on.

Vehicles were being abandoned

A car pulled up near me and I noticed inside was the mother of one of the girls who had worked with me up until very recently.  She was looking rather concerned and had stopped to use her phone having been stopped from going up Snook’s Hill.  She told me she had a friend in Newport but didn’t have her number so wanted to find somewhere with a phone book.  The Police were concerned that her car was blocking the carriageway so they asked her to move it along further.  They also told her that the Medina Centre – this includes a sports centre, swimming pool, theatre and a high school – had opened their doors and were offering shelter and cups of tea and coffee to those in need.  It is a fair walk from where we were though, and she didn’t look convinced.  I gave her my mobile number in case she was really stuck for somewhere to stay, and we said our goodbyes.

I love the way snow transforms any scene and makes it beautiful

By now the girls had met up with some friends of my daughter’s and were doing their own thing (standing around and talking from what I could see!).  I took a wander up to the car park behind the cinema which gave me a lovely view down onto the junction.  It really did look like a different place and it was so quiet, apart from the occasional sound of a car and people’s voices carrying from further away.  There were a few people out walking and just looking around as I was.  One group were carrying flasks of hot tea just in case anyone needed a cuppa.  Almost everyone was smiling and enjoying it.

Normally taking photos at night like this would have been very difficult but the snow lit everything up and with the glare of the street lights on it, there was enough light to get quite a lot of shots.  I even made a short video.








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