Winter 1947
By Valerie Muriel Mckinley
Published: October 3, 2008
Updated: October 3, 2008

The yard floor was covered in sky

and reached halfway up the house.

From my bedroom window

through mysterious lacy patterns

that had appeared there overnight,

I could see a magical place

all silent and bright.

It felt like I was the only soul

left in the whole world.

When I looked across to where the trains

chuffed and puffed past each morning,

the land lay buried and quiet

beneath what

to my four year old eyes

looked like fallen fluffy white clouds.

Suddenly as if by some pre-ordained command

all the daddies in our yard appeared with shovels

and began to make pathways in the

cotton wool clouds,

their breaths all smoky

as they chatted and laughed

and guessed that there would


“no express through today mate,

looks like the cut’s frozen over too, Les lad..

No work fer me t’day then I reckon.”

My eyes moved sideways

grew wide at what they saw.

The canal had turned all still and stiff…

The reeds and bull rushes rigid,

twinkling as if an angel had shaken

stardust over them.


No school bus came

to pick the older kids up

and the yards along the terraces

grew noisy with their excited shouts

and delighted giggles.

Before long

the strangest things began to appear,

roly poly white stuff men with twigs for arms

carrots for noses, coal black eyes

and smiley pebble mouths.

Podge dressed me up in my siren suit

shoved me into my wellies,

rolled me into my scarf and tied my mittens in place

“C’mon Mu, lets play snowballs…”


“What’s snowballs?”

“You’ll see, don’t yer get eatin’ the snow neither

the cats ‘ull ‘ave peed in it”

Barely out of the door

I discovered that the fallen sky

was wet and cold

as a great dollop of it hit me in the chops.

My squawk of protest was heard

by all the daddies

and they turned to gawp

at the baby who was making the fuss.

“C’mon little ‘un snows meant t’ be fun

show us what yer made of, throw one back at ‘im”

I was miserable.

After five minutes my nose was cold and snotty,

my mouth sore and my hands

tingled with hot aches.

So began my Winter of misery…

Nineteen forty Seven dragged on and on and on

and spring seemed to belong

to another life, never to be recaptured…