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Cold Enough for Snow


The blizzard that we were ‘promised’ was on its way to us hit yesterday morning.

Temperatures plunged to an all-time low for where we live, perhaps -6C but with the wind-chill taken into account, much lower, perhaps -10C or even more.  This, dear readers, is extremely cold for one of the mildest local climates in the UK.  I say “local” as Torbay is a special case as it is sheltered from behind by the lower reaches of Dartmoor and has the warming effect of the sea in front, so even for Devon, it’s extremely mild.

I took the above photo from our sitting room window, overlooking our drive (our garage is underneath our sitting room, i.e. part of the house, so our car was tucked up snugly inside our garage – it even sits on an old carpet, it couldn’t be looked after better if it were a family pet!) and the blue car you can see in the middle of the photo didn’t make it up the hill. The driver left it there and then got out to walk. It is still there, more than 24 hours later.  Only 4x4s are making it up the hill.

Indeed, this snow has not been what I would describe as ‘pretty’ snow in our area, because of the blizzard.  It was impossible to take pretty snow photos when the sky was grey and the wind was truly howling around the house, it was serious blizzard conditions.  The Meteorological Office issued a Red Weather Warning, this is the highest warning that is ever issued, it hasn’t ever been issued, for any reason, before for Devon and it means that extreme caution should be taken because there is a threat to life in such extreme conditions.  But people need to get to and from work and thus many have been stranded in cars and even a train was immobile for 15 hours without heating, or food or water for the passengers.

The snow came down fast, but it was light, powdery snow and, as we speak, it is snowing again (Friday afternoon, just gone 4pm UK time.)  Thank goodness for a warm house and a well-stocked fridge, freezer and larder.   This view above is from our bedroom window, with our front door on the left.  Our garden, a grassy bank, stretches to the main road.

And this was the view yesterday towards the sea – which seems to have disappeared in the snow.  This weather has been unlike the snow we have had in the past.  Back in 2009 the snow looked much prettier …



And much the same view yesterday (but without using the zoom).  The best place was at home, beside the fire.  We have a living flame gas fire which is so useful – no mess, no coal dust or wood smoke (not good for our health) and instant at the touch of a switch …

I even lit candles even though I’ve said before I think they are a fire risk but I was sitting in front of them the whole afternoon and make sure that they were extinguished when I left the room.  I am still not keen on the scented variety.  But it was the weather for a fireside and candles, and this was officially the First Day of Spring!

This morning I looked out to see animal prints in the garden. Too deep for birds, I think, perhaps cats? I felt sorry for all the bulbs which were just beginning to show themselves above the compost, but perhaps they will survive this extremely cold weather under that duvet of snow.

So, what have we been doing?  Well, we were up very early yesterday because just as the temperatures had plummeted, our central heating ceased to function.  The boiler (furnace for those in USA/Canada) was making weird noises and husband switched it off. Then, of course, it would not re-start. So we phoned our plumber.  He wasn’t in our area, but an employee lived close by and ten minutes later he was with us. Talk about good service?  He explained that we had a condensing boiler and the external pipe had frozen.  So he simply heated the pipe with boiling water and lagged it with an old towel.  We just hadn’t considered this; if we had, we’d have done this ourselves.  But then he re-set the boiler and all was well.  We’ve had the heating set at around 21C during the day and 17C at night and we have been snug. And we have our sitting room fire, and we use hot water bottles at our backs and throws, we’d rather have heat like this than making the room too stuffy. And our bed has an electric mattress cover and each side of the bed is independent, so we can each choose the heat we want.

I should also mention that a kind neighbour who hasn’t lived in our Close very long, called this morning. He wanted to make sure we were OK?  How kind of him, but it did make me feel old!  We are now ‘the old codgers who live on the corner’, I suppose!  This is exactly what, a decade or more ago we would’ve been doing, checking on elderly neighbours, but now everyone living in the Close is younger than us … well, younger than husband; two wives in the Close are younger than me (just!) but only two!

But we are a lovely small community, and look out for each other.  This new neighbour asked if we needed anything (even though our son lives around the corner – and both sons have been in touch) and as I think it’s extremely rude to say, “No, thank you,” because then it’s like having their kindness thrown back in their face, I said we could do with some extra milk if they were shopping, but we really had sufficient, to only get some for us if they were going for some for themselves.  Later in the morning his lovely partner delivered a 4pt bottle of milk, which was so kind as she couldn’t get their car to start, so she had walked to shops over a mile away, through the snow.

Just before the weather made any postal deliveries impossible, I received my latest monthly magazine and my latest box of soaps. Really, I shall be the cleanest person in our town at this rate, won’t I?

And finally, as they say on the News, a photo from the local News on TV last night. Torquay harbour-side yesterday … not quite the view of the English Rivera we, or tourists, are used to!

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. We’ve been completely snowed in Brixham. Last night the police closed all the steep hills leading up to Berry Head which is roughly where we live. Because of the way the wind was gusting, my car is now sitting a 4ft snowdrift and there was another massive drift right across the road off which our close opens. Husband works in Torbay hospital, left at 1pm, had to walk from Broadsands ( no buses ) and got in about 545pm. Neither of us could get to work today. It is still snowing now.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      My goodness, Fiona, walking from Broadsands to Brixham, that’s quite a journey on foot in the snow. And it’s still snowing at just gone 5.30pm (UK time). A neighbour left her car in a drift in Torquay so that will have to be collected eventually. We were all warned, but even so, people do need to try to get to work, they can’t all stop at home like us. We are very fortunate.

  2. Oh my goodness Margaret, you are in the midst of a winter blizzard! Although I live in southern California, I’m quite familiar with cold winters and snowy conditions as my home state of Washington experienced very cold winters. I feel for you with the wind chill making it even colder and the snow drifts! It’s calming to know that you and your husband are tucked away safe and warm in your lovely home with everything you need. I do hope this storm passes soon and that you can once again enjoy the warmth of springtime sun. We’re suppose to have a rain storm today here in SoCal. It’s no problem where I live but it’s very scary for the people up north where they experienced the wild fires. Hence, they are afraid of massive mud slides. Keeping you in my thoughts, Pat

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, the blizzard conditions are unusual in this part of the UK, Pat, but we just tucked ourselves up and kept warm, with the wind howling around the house. I do nope that those rain storms don’t cause mud slides – we’ve seen such things, as well as the wild fires, on our TV and my goodness, both are very scary and often have tragic consequences. We have had lovely warm food, too. I made veggie soup yesterday, and there was sufficient for three meals for the two of us, so we had another meal of that today, and there’s still some in the freezer. Supper tonight was sausages and mash, totally yummy.

  3. That weather is quite something, Margaret! In the last couple of days, I have heard from family and friends in Dublin, Newcastle and Nottingham. Their photos / stories are much like yours! Take care!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I was just sorry that when it came the snow wasn’t as pretty as I’d hoped, Susan, and by the time the blizzard stopped, traffic attempting to get up the hill near our house, plus children playing in the snow, had churned it all up so it didn’t look deep and crisp and even. Never mind, children love to play in the show and it was good to see them enjoying themselves. This weather has been throughout the country and now there has been a flood warning for the South West Peninsula (where we live) although we live on top of a hill, so we shouldn’t be troubled by any floods (well, we hope not!)

  4. Thank you Margaret for your wonderful photos and writing. Really made me feel I was there with you.
    How surprising for your area to be so snowbound, do hope it leaves you soon.
    However it seems that you and your husband are warm and cosy, (what a great service from the plumber) so all you need to do is wait it out.
    Very heartwarming that you have such caring neighbors and your sons are near, that makes such a difference.
    Hopefully before too long Spring will be on the way and you can be out and about enjoying your regular travels and treats.
    Looking forward to the posts.
    Best wishes, Pam in TX.xx

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, we had great service from the plumber – the person who called works for our plumber and it was just coincidental that he lives across the road from us and is, in fact, the next door neighbour to a dear friend of mine although I didn’t know this until yesterday. And how thankful we were that it was such a minor problem, too. Yes, we hope that this icy blast both from the east (or The Beast from the East it has been called) which has met Storm Emma from Iberia, will soon be just a memory and spring will truly be here. Glad you enjoyed my photos and my writing. I just tell it as it is, Pam, but boy, it has been cold! One Newsreader said it was colder than Iceland!

  5. From your photos, I would say we have had about the same amount of snow as you. It drifted about so much in the wind that although it was only about 1in deep in places, it was more like a foot deep in others. I cleared the back path this morning which took me an hour, just so I could get to the dustbin and recycling bins. That was a waste of effort, it’s been snowing nearly all day since and it’s just started again now and the sky looks full of it.

    Getting a bit stir crazy now although I know it would be stupid to go out in this and I really don’t need anything. I am hoping to get a newspaper tomorrow. Actually I’m hoping my husband will offer to go over and get it for me as I am so terrified of falling down but I doubt that will happen. I’ll have to put my snow grippers on and pluck up my courage.

    These are the soaps I bought the other day, I haven’t used any yet but they smell lovely just in the packaging so I have put them in my underwear drawer 😉

    My daughter and son in law were due to go away this weekend for their wedding anniversary but that has had to be postponed because they can’t get there, some of the roads are closed. But they have rebooked for a fortnight’s time so fingers crossed.

    I really hope it clear up soon but it’s going to take a while for all that to disappear I fear.

    Stay safe everyone.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, Alison, this snow has been blown into drifts, so that the road was almost clear of snow (but not ice!) and instead it was piled up against our garden wall and on the drive and so, hardly anything in places, and two or three feet deep just a few paces away. We put the bins out yesterday but that was before we realized how much snow would fall, so of course the Council collectors haven’t been around, nor will be until this freeze ends.
      I don’t actually mind being at home when it’s like this, I find it’s rather cosy, and I’ve done very little at all, except watch continual News reports of the snow and then watched Mrs May’s speech about Brexit this afternoon. We would’ve liked a newspaper but I doubt whether they reached our local shop, little traffic was making it up the hill.
      I had a look at the Nesti Dante soaps you have chosen and they do look nice – perhaps I shall have that selection next time, but I’m now very well stocked up with soap. I’ve since ordered my No 7 foundation make-up from Boots. It’s in a bottle where you can’t see how much you’ve used and I had difficulty in getting any out today, so need to buy some urgently. I can’t do to be without my foundation, just to even up the colour on my face. I only use very little, but just a little I find is essential.
      I do hope your daughter and son in law manage to get away in a couple of week’s time, something for them to look forward to.
      Yes, stay safe, too, Alison.

  6. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    I like candles Margaret, they do make me feel more cosy, I only light them in the evenings or when we are sat in the room, I am not keen on scented candles. How nice you have a neighbour looking out for you. Snow wise we have the same as you, we had to go out in the car today as I had a medical appointment, it was very slippery we almost got stuck in the hospital car park.
    Have a nice cosy weekend.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Marlene, and yes, although this couple only moved into the Close within the last few months, we have found them to be really pleasant people, young and with a fondness for animals. We are grateful to have such caring neighbours. I hope your hospital appointment went well but I expect the car park was like a skating rink! Yes, you have a cosy weekend, too, Marlene.

  7. Good to know that you are warm and safe! I had to smile, a young man from the village rang our doorbell today , offering to get us anything we needed. Like you, we didn’t need anything, but felt it would be rude not to accept his kind offer, so we asked for some milk! Now feeling very old, but touched by the thoughtfulness. The next bit of weather is what I dread – ice. I have terrible balance, even with my very good snow boots.

    Promise me you won’t get your old tea tray and go whizzing down that slope, resist the temptation!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      How coincidental, Elaine! But it does seem churlish not to ask for something when a kind person asks like that, I think it makes them feel better if their offer is accepted. Yes, it made me feel old, but we were both touched by his (and his partner’s) kindness. I don’t have good balance, either, so won’t be venturing out on the ice. As for an old tea tray, perish the thought! There is a lovely slope down our Close and then down the hill to the town, but I won’t be practicing for the Olympic Skeleton event any time soon!

  8. What wonderful service from your plumber and his employee Margaret, cannot imagine not having any heat in these low temperatures! It started snowing again this afternoon and it’s still coming down, we had tickets to see a play at the Cambridge Arts Theatre this evening but have taken the disappointing decision not to go. It would have been too much of a worry to travel home late this evening and impossible to stay over with our little dog waiting for us.
    As you say it’s not the attractive kind of winter weather, it’s something to be endured rather enjoyed I feel.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, Elaine, very good service from our plumber. However, unless there was a power cut, we do have three portable convector heaters, plus a fan heater we could bring in from our garage (which is part of our house, below our sitting room, but we keep a heater there for when husband decides to work in our garage – it’s a large one, not quite a double garage but it’s as wide as our sitting room and almost as long) so we wouldn’t have been entirely without heat. Plus we have a living flame gas fire in the sitting room, and a gas hob in the kitchen (these two things mean we can keep warm in the sitting room and cook meals even if the electricity goes off).
      How disappointing not to go to the theatre this evening, but better to be safe and warm at home. As I write this, just gone 7am on Saturday morning, there is a thaw at last.

  9. Your weather has been really bad there, Margaret, well illustrated with your photos. My family in North Devon also have some snow but apparently not as bad as south Devon. They have a wood-burner so are keeping nice and warm too. We have had around 4inches of snow in the East Midlands but looks like more on the way. We will all certainly appreciate Spring when it arrives!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      While severe, I think our snow will have a short shelf-life, Anne. It’s melting already this morning (7.10am, Saturday morning). I hope that it doesn’t return as it’s been so disruptive for those trying to get to and from work. We’re fine, being retired. We just checked our supplies, stocked up, and then shut the doors and waited for the blizzard which eventually came. Indeed, it’s been rather nice being indoors for the past few days, we’ve just relaxed and kept warm and had good meals, read books and watched TV (mainly the News). But at last we can see grass again in the garden! North Devon has had it even worse than ourselves in Torbay, I think, but we have the warming influence of the sea close by, rather than the open expanses of North Dartmoor and Exmoor.

  10. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    It’s a nice feeling that the community spirit comes alive in times of adversity. My husband, one of the younger-elders (if you get my meaning) of our close, has been helping out a little with the elderly man over the road. No doubt we will become the older-elders soon. What a thought!
    It’s snowed here all afternoon and into the evening. It varies from tiny spindrift to large flakes and seems to drift onto our front path. Like you, Margaret, I am so glad to have a well stocked freezer and cupboards.
    Just a note on Fiona’s comment…much as I love Berry Head, I certainly can’t imagine being there in this weather. I’m not surprised the road is closed!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, I’m sure that the community spirit is still alive and well in the UK. It gets submerged under all the daily activities from time to time, but when there is a crisis, we do tend to pull together in the UK. Perhaps this is the same worldwide, it’s human nature, I think, to want to assist one’s neighbours. Well, I hope so. Yes, people still come to husband to ask his advice if things go wrong with anything in their homes. Having been an engineer and extremely practical he does tend to know how to tackle a wide-range of everyday problems in homes, doorbells that fail to work, or in one instance, the top of a rabbit hutch which needed replacing (he made a new one for this neighbour). So well done to your husband one of the younger-elders (what a lovely description) for helping the older-elders.

  11. Oh I feel sorry for the people who were stuck on that train for 15 hours. It must have been awful for them. I feel sorry for anyone who had to traipse through the cold. As pretty as the snow looks to my eyes (especially as I’m reclined under a ceiling fan turned up to medium so as to have relief from our warm, humid conditions) it sounds like most things have ground to a halt. I bet the local kids have been enjoying it. Your new neighbours sound very kind. Keep enjoying your magazines and plentiful food supplies – you certainly have the right attitude to riding out the storm !

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, the local children have been loving it although our little grandson (with his daddy’s help) found building a snowman difficult as the snow was so powdery this time. But they managed it yesterday. However, the snowman will now have melted, I expect, as the temperature has risen – I think it’s meant to be around about 4C today, rather in the minus region. But even though it’s been cold, we’ve been snug as bugs in our home. We coped just fine but then, we didn’t have to try and get to work and then get home again. Many people, such as key hospital staff, slept at work in order to be able to carry on. But this is what happens in an emergency situation, it’s all hands to the pumps, isn’t it?

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