Grandpa Webb's blog

Monday, 07 January 2013

Grandpa’s regional snowman-building and grip-testing service

Find out more about Grandpa WebbWe are in Dorset. It's snowing, but, as any train company will tell you, it's the wrong sort of snow. Not that this has bothered my five year-old grandson. Before 8am he is out in his back garden, booted, gloved and with the hood up on his jacket, rolling snow into a ball. The first snowman of the year is already taking shape.

A soggy snowball hits the kitchen window. I think I ought to keep him company - even if only to make sure there aren't any stones trapped inside the next snowball.

I start assembling a snowman's head, but am prevented from adding it to the small body. "No, not yet - it's not big enough!" he says, presumably with visions of a colossal snowman his dad made last year. Dad is away on business and not in a position to help, and I think I am turning out to be a poor substitute.

Anyway, as I said earlier, it's the wrong sort of snow. Not the deep, dry, fluffy, malleable snow that sticks together easily. The temperature is a bit above freezing so this stuff is wet and slushy and only about two inches deep - not that I am making excuses, you understand. It's just that you can't make a very big snowman from such scant materials.

The second snowman wearing my genuine leather Australian bushman’s hat. The moustache was my idea.A carrot has arrived from the kitchen, for the snowman's nose. "Use a couple of stones for the eyes", we are urged. Are you kidding? My garden at home has stones that creep to the surface overnight - great flinty things that jam the garden fork and resist any attempt to dig a hole for a spring bulb.

Here in Dorset I wonder whether my son has used some sort of vacuum cleaner to suck up all the stones. All I can find amongst the slush is one rather poorly shaped stone and a peanut. Mind you I'm operating under some difficulty as I am having to dodge a steady stream of well-aimed snowballs.

After just over half an hour, it's time for my helper to go to school. He is soaked from head to foot. There is snow down his neck and inside his boots and he needs a complete change of clothes before he sets off on the walk to school. I bet his mum is pleased.

Now I am on my own I am able to fix the disembodied head to the small body and assemble a snowman that looks a bit like E.T. from the 1980s film. He still has a stone for one eye and a peanut for the other, but at least the carrot looks good.

Next day, back home, I discover we have more snow than there was in Dorset. The granddaughters have different uses for the untouched snow in our back garden. The eight year-old wants an igloo; the five year-old wants a snowman. The igloo is started, but soon abandoned and the builder goes indoors after she realises that building a roof could be a problem. The little one and me stay out and use my new B&Q snow shovel to help build a bigger snowman than the Dorset job. Wearing my genuine leather Australian bushman’s hat and mum’s scarf, he looks almost handsome.

During the snow I have been testing a new gadget. “I’ve got something for you,” my daughter had said in the autumn. The last time one of my children used this phrase, it was an invitation to join them at a Red Letter Day, driving a Ferrari at Thruxton motor racing circuit. A great day it was. I also got to drive a Formula Ford single seater and had a ride in a Porsche. 

Get a grip. The grippers were OK in soft snow, but a bit noisy in Tesco. This was slightly different. “I’ve got these for you and mum. You fix them to your shoes and they give extra grip in the snow,” she said. It has always been true that as people get older, it can be difficult for them to get up if they fall over. Sometimes an ambulance needs to be called.

You can’t be too careful, so I fixed them to my wellies and tested them on a walk to the local Tesco. They were fine on the snow-covered pavement, but inside Tesco, with its tiled floor, I sounded like an escapee from Riverdance as I clacked my way around the shelves on my stainless steel prongs and springs.

One of the grippers got a bit dislodged when I had to kneel down in the slush to hook my genuine leather Australian bushman’s hat from under a parked car where a surprise gust of wind had blown it.  For me, the grippers definitely give more grip in the snow, but I find they slip over the toes of my boots after a while. Maybe they are better on shoes than on slippery wellies. 

Hopefully there will still be something left of the small snowman in Dorset when dad gets back in a couple of days. I can almost hear the conversation now: "Grandpa tried to make a snowman, but it was too small. Not as good as the ones you make."

Maybe by that time the snow will have gone and dad can justifiably say: "We'll have to see what we can do next time it snows..."

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