I posted these two pictures in a Facebook Group, Calderdale Then and Now, as I had spotted someone else’s similar post about the bad winter of 1962-3. We had returned from Nigeria for good (or so my parents thought) in early February of that year, rather to my shock and disgruntlement. My first conscious experience of snow on the trip back from Kano was in Switzerland. It was raining when we arrived and for the train trip to our destination at Ouchy, Lake Geneva. I pretty much accused my parents of breaching the trades description act, as they’d promised me snow, and went to bed in our slightly unusual accommodation of a church retirement home (a story for another time!) in high dudgeon, low spirits and a flurry of oversized feathery duvet.
The next morning I awoke to two whiteouts, the first being the huge duvet! Pushing this aside, I looked at the bright window and ran to see… thick snow! I dressed quickly in what turned out to be totally inadequate clothing for a European winter, as I rapidly discovered, and shot outside with my (less exuberant) parents. My first dash through pristine snow was a delight, leaving footprint devastation in my wake, but was rapidly curtailed as the snow made its presence known. I retreated rather grumpily indoors with my parents, who embarked on a mission later that day to fortify my apparel!
Once back in Yorkshire, we faced the tail end of this rather brutal winter in Northowram, which isn’t the most sheltered of spots. The first image shows me sitting on a neighbour’s wall (the Hardies’), and it’s odds-on that I am whingeing about the cold! The second photo is of the back garden, which backed on to houses in Newlands, and I swear I can hear the anguished cry of ‘Oh, no, not snow again!’ from my parents almost 60 years later.
Having posted the pictures and brief commentary, I had a few welcome responses fairly quickly, including some from people whose relatives or friends had lived in the street. I am not sure I recall Mr Whiteley’s Auntie Peggy and Uncle Cyril, who apparently lived in a bungalow there for a time, with their Border terrier Trevor. I would probably have known them as Mr & Mrs… I do recall a Mr & Mrs Baxendale in a bungalow nearby, but mainly because I was always scared silly of asking them for permission to retrieve stray tennis balls from French cricket games in the street!
Though intangible, these little connections do warm the heart, particularly after 2 years of pandemic limitations, and underline the importance of feeling a shared past with someone and having someone who understands your shared context. I have come in latter years to realise how people become reconciled to shuffling off this mortal coil as, more and more, one finds oneself the only one with specific memories. The sharing of experiences and connections very much feeds our souls, and once those connections have gone, the ties that bind seem to loosen.
Back to the little tale. Within a day, however, a closer connection emerged, with a response from a Mr Shaw, who said that he and his wife had lived in our house while we were in Nigeria, having married in September 1962 and living there while waiting for a new build house to be ready! It turns out their new house was also just down the road from one of my great-aunts, off Moor End Road in Halifax – so the Shaws went from the opposite of the frying-pan into the fire, I think, from a high and chilly Northowram to an even more exposed moortop! We must also have passed them many a time when visiting my aunt.
Being only 7 or so at the time, I have no recollection of any house arrangements while we were away, and it only struck me at this point that I assume that my parents had probably also rented the house out previously, and that I didn’t even actually know for certain when we got the house. There’s another little challenge for me to sort. I should get on with other things, but can never resist a puzzle.
Oh, and if this makes any connections for you, do get in touch!