Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lindsay Townsend: The romance of snow

The romance of snow is a relatively recent idea. When the river Thames froze in the 'little ice age,' between the 15th and 19th centuries, people enjoyed great frost fairs on the river. Christmas was celebrated as the birth of Christ. Winter however was largely dreaded and endured, a time of little light, dwindling food, bad roads.

Nursery rhymes show us winter before the modern age:

Little Polly Flinders
Sat among the cinders,
Warming her pretty little toes.
Her mother came and caught her,
And whipped her little daughter
For spoiling her nice new clothes.

(Little Polly might also have suffered from chilblains by sitting with her feet so close to the fire.)

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.

Roads could be very dangerous, especially in winter.

The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

Before central heating, keeping warm was difficult for everyone in winter. Following on from a custom begun in Victorian times, I always feed the birds in winter.

Pease porridge hot!
Pease porridge cold!
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old.

Food in winter could be sparse, less than fresh and dull.

As living conditions improved, people began to enjoy winter. There is a pleasure in watching snow fall and in making snowmen, having snowball fights, going for snowy walks. I love the trees in winter, so sculptured and stark.

I also enjoy setting romance stories in winter. The dark and cold of the season can give my hero and heroine something elemental to strive against. Their warning feelings for each other contrast with the bitter weather. And perhaps they can have a snowball fight...

Please see my 'The Snow Bride,' 'Twelve Kisses,' 'A Knight's Captive,' and 'Flavia's Secret,' for more.

Lindsay Townsend