First Snow


Cold, wet snow driving against the window. The sky is grimly grey and I don’t think we’ll see any real daylight at all. Not today. One of those days best wrapped up and forgotten about.

I’m sitting in a classroom behind one of a row of desks. We’re all facing the front and he’s standing there telling us to write about ourselves. Forget about the snow he says and concentrate upon your writing. “Commit yourselves, make it personal.”

How can you forget about the snow when it’s there every time you look up? It must be the coldest day of the year; the wind whistles around the Language block and, believe it or not, some of the windows are open: the windows are open and we all have to take off our coats and jumpers, only he calls them “non-uniform tops.”

I’m too cold to write. I wish I was in Cornwall. We went there last summer; all of us, the whole family, and I could have stayed there forever. It’s supposed to be packed with tourists but we found a glorious beach which was almost deserted. It was great to go down to the shoreline where the waves roared and crashed onto the sand. Or else we went on cliff top walks with the rolling country on one side and a steep drop onto rocks on the other. All uphill and down, coastal footpaths are hard work and you need a floppy hat under that blazing sun too, but it’s all worth it when you can collapse into the shade and polish off an ice cream. It’s my idea of heaven: a Cornish ice cream, the cry of the gulls and a view for miles out to sea.

I suppose that’s what summer holidays are for; to relax and forget about everything. Granddad would have loved it.

Does everyone think their Granddad is special? I do. Granddad never used to fuss; he could take everything in his stride. I remember once when I was messing about with Jamie’s football and I broke a window. For some reason I just let fly, I suppose I was trying to prove to Jamie that girls can kick footballs as well as boys. Well this one flew alright, straight through Granddad’s window. I can remember the sickening thud, the split second shattering and the splintering of tiny fragments of glass.

There was no point in trying to deny it. When Granddad came out of his door, I was rooted to the spot. But he didn’t hesitate and in no time at all he had everything under control.

“Give me a hand with the brush and shovel and we’ll get this swept up. Then I’ll give Bob Davies a ring, he replaces glass.”

I remember that look he gave me though; he must have known that I’d had the biggest shock of all.

“There’s two things I want from you young lady: a few bob from your pocket money to put this right and a hug for your granddad to show there’s no harm done.”

A few bob, whatever that means. He could have had all my money if I’d known then what I know now.

It was the worst day of my life; a year ago now, standing in that windswept cemetery by a mound of muddy earth and heaps of freshly cut flowers, surrounded by suits and solemn faces. Mum and Dad were holding hands and Jamie and I were both trying and failing to look grown up. I was trying and failing to put on an act. All I could think of was myself; thirteen and I didn’t have a granddad. My tears were real but they weren’t for Granddad, they were for me: thirteen, stupid, clumsy and selfish.

Mum came and turned up my collar. It was cold; a sudden gust of wind blew a flurry of snowflakes onto the fresh soil of the plot. Commit yourself? Make it personal? I remember thinking: the first snow of winter.

First Snow is part of the collection I Was Ready to Fall in Love:

An Honourable Man, short story by John Clarke:

Photo by Bruna Bonino