“Snow!” shouted my oldest son a few minutes after he woke up on Sunday morning. Within fifteen minutes, and before I can drink my first cup of coffee, the two boys are dressed and ready to go sledging. They charge out the door towards the Downs with their two sleighs. One sleigh is wooden and traditional, a relic of my wife’s childhood and the other a standard issue shiny red plastic model. The boys would fight over the wooden sleigh except that the plastic one is much lighter and my youngest son usually settles for it without complaint.
My wife and I enjoyed our breakfast, looking out on our snowy garden. As parents of fairly young boys there is a certain guilty pleasure, tinged with nervousness, about letting them go out on their own. You know it’s the right thing to do and the peace and quiet is lovely, but there’s always a little nagging doubt in your mind that something bad will happen while you are not there.
My boys are also cheeky and liable to get up to mischief when allowed out on their own. In the autumn, I had to rescue my oldest from a rightfully angry (though slightly pompous) driver who objected to my oldest throwing a conker at his car. So I have to worry not only about my boys’ safety but also about the door bell being rung by an irritated neighbour objecting to one of their practical jokes. Did you ever spare a thought for the father of Dennis the Menace when reading the Beano? No. Me neither. Now, I am that man!
The boys come back with red faces and wet feet and the constant exhilarated chatter of kids who have been playing in the snow. Next followed a friendly snow-ball fight in the street which was an odd but fun way to meet more new neighbours. Then I suddenly had an urge to build a snowman as I have never built one before. So my youngest and I set to work in the back garden.
After about an hour of back-breaking work, we have a decent snowman with coal for eyes and buttons and a seed pot for a nose. I took a few pictures of my son poking his tongue out (why do kids do that in every photo?) by our icy creation. As I am doing this I realise that I am having one of those fleeting very happy moments in life. I think pyschologists call it ‘a positive state of flux’ when you lose yourself in a physical activity like fishing, sailing or snowman making. Plus there’s something extra special when you get lost in a happy flux with your youngest son.
I noted that the latest national report on burglary rates shows Eastbourne is the safest town in Britain. Sunniest (stop whining Hastings you can be sunny but not the sunniest), best free airshow and now safest. What next?
The down side is that I am now worried that I am losing what little ‘street cred’ I had. My first flat was in Stoke Newington in London, ‘Stokey’ to those that love the restaurants on Church Street, beautiful Abney Park Cemetery (resting place of William Booth of Sally Army fame) and the ‘yummy mummy heaven’ that is Clissold Park. Actually, my only bad memories of living there for five years are of being twice burgled. So it came as little surprise that Stoke Newington has the highest levels of burglary in Britain.
Some of my friends may argue that I have lost any remaining street credibility by leaving London to move to Eastbourne, but after a day of sledging in the snow I sleep soundly in my bed knowing that I live in the safest town in Britain.