How the Beast from the East brought us together again

Emma Long, Henry Balls, Nick Davis, George Saunders and Ben Chilvers with the tractor they used to r

Emma Long, Henry Balls, Nick Davis, George Saunders and Ben Chilvers with the tractor they used to rescue those stuck on the NDR (Image: Ben Chilvers) - Credit: Archant

Last week's snowfall helped us rediscover our sense of community, says David Clayton.

Am I wrong in saying I've quite liked the weather we've just endured? Or perhaps I should say, I've appreciated it for what it has inadvertently done for us all. I sense we all bonded a little closer over a trying week. Of course, it threw up all sorts of anxieties for many and for that, I sympathise. There'll be a big overtime bill for all sorts of organisations too, but do you know, we always see the best in people at the worst of times.

Unusually, I was presenting all week on the radio and had to miss out on the Wednesday due to the risky drive-in. I was mildly ashamed of myself. I made it into Radio Norfolk back in 1987 during the infamous October gales, and I've stayed on air all night during floods, so I felt I'd wimped-out a bit to miss one afternoon radio show, but of course, things carry on as they pretty much carried on all over the county, in some form or another

There's something timeless about a hefty covering of snow. For me, it evokes my childhood when families would appear out of their houses with sledges. Cheery conversations were had while snow was shovelled this way and that. Contemplative chins were rubbed as comparisons were made with previous winters. 1963 was usually offered up with 1947 generally trumping it. We were collectively coping with an uncommon adversity and despite back then, the lack of central heating, wall-to-wall media coverage and no mobile phones, we're still here.

I struggled, nervously up the untreated side road from my house last Thursday morning, justifying the car journey to myself as 'essential' as I'd be imparting important information to Norfolk via radio transmitters. I was struck by that childhood flashback as the scene unfolded in front of me. There were groups of people chatting and leaning on shovels. Because few people were venturing into work, Mums and Dads were pulling children along on sledges. Snowballs were being flung around. The road, where it was definable from the pavement, was as much the domain of pedestrians as it was of the very few cars about and on seeing me approach at barely ten miles per hour, walkers happily stood aside to give me as wide a berth as possible and offered a cheery, sympathetic wave. I waved back.

As I approached the local shop, there were huddles of people just passing the time of day after making some vital purchase or other. Along with my enforced slow pace, everything was similarly unrushed. Had I not been concentrating on keeping my car moving forward in a straight line, I'd have savoured the scene for longer.

I think what's happened is we've all had a bit more time to appreciate what we have around us. When you can't get far, the immediate community becomes much more relevant. Hurrah for the local shops, some of which went out of their way to get extra supplies for their 'new' customers as well as their regulars. I dare say since the last major dumping of snow more village shops have closed. Top-up purchases of milk, bread and a newspaper we all 'pop up the road' for after our big supermarket shop, just don't cut it. Never has 'use it or lose it' been more appropriate.

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The other thing I've rather enjoyed is, among the dire safety warnings we've listened to and read, there's been a thread of humour. I saw Tweets from people declaring Poringland as Norfolk's Bermuda Triangle because once you went in you couldn't get out. Then after deserved appreciation for the farmers who cleared many a snowdrift with their tractors, someone said they'd absolutely change their ways and 'Never ever moan about being stuck behind a tractor in Norfolk again,' but added – 'It's still OK to moan about being stuck behind a caravan.'

Anyway – one good thing about the thaw, you can see where the potholes are!