May 23, 2022

With so much going on, we are now being told that along with the common cold and flu, the corona virus will remain among us and we need to adapt to live with it. It’s just that adaptation is a permanent human trait, and we’re all good at it.

Most of us have a laid back attitude when it comes to painting a picture about ourselves. We invest in extra vitamins, store paracetamol and lemons and make sure we have Vicks vapor rub available. Just in case!

For added comfort, I swear by my mother’s recipe for chicken soup – which I still love to make today. And I remember as a child I was so impressed when I saw the big pan coming out, ready for the charming feast of minced meat and dumplings!

If you live in Consett you will know that we have a constant mood according to the weather! Located about 900 feet above sea level and on the shores of the North Peninsula, the city enjoys high winds and temperatures below zero.

We may have experienced the ‘beast from the East’ in 2018, yet I’m not sure if it matched my recollection of trying to walk on the ice at St. Patrick’s School in early 1963. Sent alone in thick socks and Wales – which mercilessly numb little fingers in the cold – a fur bottle of green duffle coat, bubble hat and gloves; Not yet fully equipped for what lies ahead.
Where the roads had been partially cleared of snow plows, the frozen snow mounds lined the deep-flowing floors, which were getting worn out and slippery as the thermometer fell.

As I struggled, trying to cross the road with traffic lights in front of the Breeze during my epic journey from Hanley Gardens to Stanley Street, I remember a huge gust of wind – firmly in the snow. Sticking with my over-sized wells – forcing me to lose my balance. As a result of which the snow was cutting, tilting my cheeks forward I made my first reverse snow angel.

Impressed by the experience – I should have turned back and returned home – I made my way to the school on Madamsley Road. Once there, exhausted, with the other students, I left my Wales and coat on the soaked porch and slipped my wet socks into the windowed classroom.

I was lucky enough to have my PE kit hung on the back of my chair in a homemade drawstring gangham bag. Yet for others who were not so lucky, their quest was to find a pair of shoes from a rubber-smelling sandwich closet!

I remember when the door slammed shut and the heat from the strong iron radiators gave off a strong odor of damp socks and gloves drying, combined with the unhealthy smell of melted iced topped milk bottles in a blackboard crate.

I never found this environment conducive to learning and I was already dreaming of going home sitting by the coal fire in my warm pajamas and dressing gown.

We were allowed to go out during the game but were not allowed to throw snowballs, so we satisfied ourselves by rolling the giant temples to make snowmen. Once back inside, we repeat the lines from Catechism:

Who made you
God made me

Why did God make you?
God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the Hereafter.

As I pondered these words, I thought of my grandfather, who always said that we should not complain about any inconvenience. But remember, ‘offering it to the Holy Spirit’ is what I did on that occasion. And hopefully the people in the purgatory were a little more comfortable with me.

It was finally home time, and although my socks were as tight as a board, I slipped my feet into them and lined up to go home.

Glad to see my father at the gate, I held his hand and rested myself on the now frozen glittering ice, as the light dimmed a little and the winter sun shone white, which It seemed magical.

And that’s when I opened the door, the big pan on the stove, bubbling with the hypnotic smell of mince and dumplings!

My pajamas were warming up on the cloth horse, and on the small table by the fire were my two favorite things, a glass of hot black currant and a boiled egg with butter, mixed in a cup!

I was home

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