Comment: Facing up to the winter chill

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LATELY it’s been cold enough to castrate a whole troupe of metal monkeys, and of course the first

glimpse of a snowy flurry has triggered the usual mass hysteria, cheer leaded by the usual suspects,

not the least of which appear to be schools.

Still, instead of being tucked up on the premises in the warm and dry it’s perhaps better to turf the little darlings out into the icy wastes, to indulge in the less hazardous pursuits of sliding along pavements, chucking snowballs and whizzing down precarious inclines on makeshift sledges

And no doubt the parents are overawed, by the chance to spend unscheduled quality time with their kids, instead of helping to lift the country out of economic recession by continuing their daily employment.

And surely it can only be a matter of time before the ‘elf and safety’ brigade churn out a sheaf of job justifying regulations, probably banning snowballs which don’t conform to a risk assessed directive.

But of course snowy pursuits carry inherent risks, as evidenced many years ago by a tragic accident at Whaddon.

It was one wintry afternoon in the grounds of Whaddon Hall that 17 year old Miss Essex Selby Lowndes, the daughter of Major Selby Lowndes, had challenged Captain Bradshaw to a toboggan race. Accepting the challenge he gallantly gave her a generous start but on the descent the two collided and the prow of his toboggan caught her in the face.

She was taken unconscious to Whaddon Hall, where, having been wired to come as soon as possible from Stony Stratford, Dr Bull found her to be suffering from severe concussion and haemorrhage.

In consequence Dr Buzzard of London was called but although everything possible was done ‘Oggie,’ as WAS her pet name, died the following afternoon.

At the inquest Captain Bradshaw was overcome with emotion, with a verdict of accidental death recorded.

The coffin was carried from Whaddon Hall on foot, to be interred in the north east corner of the churchyard, and of the many wreaths one poignantly featured a violet background, on which the name ‘Oggie’ was picked out in white flowers.

Long ago, in the days before refrigeration lumps of ice would be hewn from frozen ponds, canals etc., to be stored in underground ice houses, where the subterranean depths delayed melting.

Situated between the two lakes, one was built in the grounds of Woburn Abbey in 1788 and following the advent of the railways one was built immediately west of the Ouse embankment between the canal and the old Wolverton road, to serve the refreshment rooms of Wolverton station.

Another, although I haven’t been there for several years, was hidden within a wooded clump in a field near to the branch canal at Cosgrove.

Here chunks of ice hewn in winter from the branch canal were stored, to be sold to traders of perishable goods during the spring and summer months.

As for winters of yesteryear, many readers will perhaps remember the big freeze of 1947, during which in March heavy snowfalls caused the biggest hold up of transport in living memory.

Many villages were isolated and to fetch the shopping for herself and the villagers a farmer’s wife drove a tractor all the way from Swanbourne to Bletchley.

As equally enterprising, a Wavendon man wearing an Alpine outfit reached Bletchley on skis.

But back to the initial rant on schools and I well remember the frozen months of 1963, when despite the conditions it was not only expected that everyone made the effort to get to school, but also the psychos of the sports department decreed that cross country runs should be undertaken.

In fact I still bear the mental scars. And from being clad only in skimpy singlet and shorts, ploughing waist deep through the snowdrifts not only numbed the mind but also certain rather delicate physical extremities.

Which probably explains why brass monkeys are not often seen going on cross country runs.