For the ‘townies’ among us, snow will always symbolise fun, excitement and stunning beauty. Fun and exciting, that is, until you have to go to work in it.
Snow is for weekends and skiing holidays.
At the time of writing (Feb 2021), the UK is in its third pandemic lockdown, so many of us are working from home or furloughed. For those who don’t know, furlough means being granted a leave of absence. It’s an old-fashioned word that came to the fore in the spring of 2020 with the UK Government’s introduction of national lockdowns. In this context, it means the UK Government pays you to not go to work.
For many, being furloughed was a dream because it meant spending weeks at home doing whatever they liked — and being paid, albeit at a reduced rate. For others, it has been a living nightmare for many reasons.
Knocking me sideways
I have never not worked. I’ve either been employed or involved in business ventures. Currently, I’m employed in a senior role as UK Group Marketing Manager for a successful property security company.
Or, at least I was, until I too was furloughed, on Jan 19th.
It hit me like a ton of bricks.
Under my tenure, marketing activity has generated £3.4m in revenue in the past four years, with £1.3m of that in the past 12 months alone. How could anyone decide that furloughing me was a good idea? I was stunned by the decision, and still am.
I felt dejected, despondent and angry. I mean really angry. I bored the pants off my partner and friends talking about it. Then I tried styling it out, but I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t think straight.
I’m in marketing, surely I can turn my hand to something (except it’s illegal to do paid work whilst being furloughed). I’ve previously written a number of articles for Medium and LinkedIn — I’ll take that more seriously and become a full-time writer.
Fighting back for sanity
I set about trying in vain to organise myself and remain occupied.
Remember, we are still in lockdown whilst coronavirus runs wild in the UK, having already killed over 100,000 people. Going out and doing pretty much anything is simply not an option, and won’t be for some time to come.
The best I could do was walk most days to help me create thinking-space in the hope it would clear my head.
I’m fortunate to live in a rural part of the south of England, at the top of what’s known as the North Downs. It’s a 153-mile ridge of chalky hills, around 800 feet above sea level, affording us a clear and spectacular view of the South Downs, roughly 53 miles to the south.
The countryside walks and views are nothing short of stunning up here. During the summer we have acres of ancient woodland filled with wild flora and fauna. In the spring, bluebells create great swathes of lush purple. And during some of our winters, we have snow painting the countryside white.
Whatever the weather, it’s hard not to allow this beautiful scenery to lift one’s spirits. Just standing still, quietly observing every detail is Chicken Soup for the Soul. And it’s amazing the detail you see when you look, properly.
My partner works from home, so I’ve been very lucky to be able to spend more time with her. On our daily adventures, we would walk, talk, reminisce, debate, laugh, cry, soul-search, ask questions, attempt to find answers — and just enjoy this unexpected instalment of our life journey together. Sometimes we would walk together in silent contemplation.
At my lowest point, having the support of my partner, just being together with no outside pressures or demands on my time, has been a deeply moving and uplifting experience.
Snow and the UK
In the UK it’s a longstanding joke that a few days of snow brings the country to a grinding halt, especially for us southerners. As a nation we are so unprepared for any kind of extreme weather, it’s laughable.
We would never consider changing our tyres/wheels or adapt our driving technique to match the conditions. We simply carry on pretending it’ll be fine, while we slide down hills we should have never driven down, insist on driving way too fast for the conditions and forget to brake as the cars in front come to a stop — blaming the driver in the car in front for having the audacity to stop.
As I write, we’ve had a few days of snow in the south. It’s bitingly cold but it’s been a perfect opportunity to get out amongst it and take some photos of the stunning scenery.
I wanted to share some of my favourite scenes with you.
The future can only be what you make it
What has struck me most about walking and observing my surroundings is that when you look at the scenes photographed above, it’s hard to imagine how a woodland stripped bare of green life and pausing, frozen in the cold will, once again, become rich and lush, filled with flora and fauna, wildlife and human life.
Snow is far more alluring than sunshine, to me at least. It utterly transforms the landscape, allowing you to see far more detail and farther into woodland than ever before because of how light is reflected upward. The mere existence of something that appears so quickly and makes such sweeping changes to the landscape and life is inspiring.
I see this as a metaphor for life: where a small and unexpected, rapid change can make a transformational shift in our lives and the way we see things. It changes what we learn to appreciate. Snow provides contrast, clarity, stillness and quiet. Everything pauses while it’s here until the weather decides to change again. Snow can vanish as quickly as it arrives.
Why exactly I was furloughed remains unclear, as does whether or not I will be asked to return, and it’s this that was keeping me awake at night.
I’m ok now, and at peace with the world in my head. Mostly.
What I've come to appreciate is that if there's one thing that’s constant in life, it’s that everything changes. I doubt I’m the first to articulate this, but it’s such a powerful statement, it’s worth repeating.
I guess it’s another way of saying ‘prepare for the unexpected’.
I wasn’t, but I am now.
Enjoy your walks, come rain or shine.
Originally published by the author on Medium