It’s January 1947 and I’m 4½ years old. During the winter of 1946–47 the UK experienced several cold spells, beginning on 21 January 1947, bringing the severest snowfalls for 150 years to the country. Roads were closed and railways became blocked. Coal supplies, already low following the Second World War, struggled to get through to power stations and many were forced to shut down due to lack of fuel. The government introduced several measures to cut power consumption, including restricting domestic electricity to 19 hours per day and cutting industrial supplies completely. Radio broadcasts were limited, and some magazines were ordered to stop being published; newspapers were cut in size. Public morale was very low due to these measures and the Minister of Fuel and Power received death threats and had to be placed under police guard. Towards the end of February there were also fears of a food shortage as supplies were cut off and vegetables frozen into the ground.
Imagine frost on the inside of the bedroom windows! We had no central heating, just one coal fire in the front room. At night Mum would find as many blankets as she could, after which it was coats to keep us warm. The bedroom floor was covered in linoleum, not carpet, so our feet felt as if they would stick to the cold floor when we walked. I recall going with Mum to the coal merchant and pretending that I was someone else’s little girl so that Mum could get an extra bag of fuel. So two bags of coal were loaded into the baby’s pram (he wasn’t in it at the time!)
It was grim! It has gone down in history as one of the severest winters in living memory. However, as I was such a small child it hardly seemed to affect me. I don’t remember going without food, but it must have been very hard for my parents.
One thing I do remember with vivid clarity was the time I was stuck in a snow drift up to my armpits. Now, you might think that’s hilariously funny (I do, now!) but for a 4½ year old it was terrifying. I’d been sent out to play so that Mum could “get on with things” (probably connected to my seven-month old brother). So, off I went on my adventure. I have no idea what I was thinking about but I can remember a sudden “sinking” feeling. Apparently I’d stepped where there was a snow-covered ditch and down I went. When I think now of what might have happened I am horrified but I must have shouted or cried so loudly that someone came along and pulled me out.
I’m not sure to this day whether I received loving cuddles or not when I arrived home soaking wet, frozen cold and a very unhappy bunny.
I love reminiscing about my childhood as it makes me reaslie just how fortunate we are these days.
We’ve been warned that this winter may well be as bad as 1947, but, even if that transpires to be true, we will have a better time of it than we did 67 years ago.
How our lives have changed since then. And most of us, including myself, take so much of it for granted. Heating, lighting, carpets, well-stocked shops and supermarkets. We really have it all.
So, please, if you’re reading this and you are living where there is plenty, spare a thought for those people, even in Europe and America, who have little or nothing to look forward to this Christmas because of poverty.
And thank God for what you have!!