Thursday, December 02, 2010

In the Snow of Long Ago

In the winter of 1975 I was a member of an amateur drama group called Swarthmore Studio Group, and we were putting on that classic pantomime, Cinderella.

The Communist was a pharmacist and his shop was in Acomb, York, twenty-five miles away. He was Baron Hardup in the panto. His plan that day was to do his morning in the shop, which closed at lunchtime on a Saturday, and then drive home in time for the matinee of Cinderella.

Then it snowed, heavily.

Most of the cast were from Leeds and made our way to the venue somehow, though a few people were missing. The Communist was one of them. My mother was also in the panto and we couldn't contact him, of course, as it was long before the days of mobile phones. The cast all looked at each other and swapped all the roles around, and did the show somehow, for an audience of children from a children's home. They seemed to enjoy it, creaky though it must have been!

By the end of the show there was no sign of the Communist and no word from him. We were getting worried. So my mother and I went home, collected blankets and a flask of hot coffee, and set off in her blue Mini with Snoopy stickers on the side, in search of the Communist.

These days - and in his later years at the shop - you would travel up the A64, York Road, to get to Acomb. But in those days the best way was along Wetherby Road out of Leeds, and that's the way we went, looking out for him all the way.

We didn't have to go too far. Just a couple of miles out of Leeds, we found him, trudging along the road in his big boots, rather red in the face but very cheerful.

He had set off in his car but it got irretrievably stuck in the snow. Then he found a bus and travelled on it for a few miles, until it too got stuck.

All the bus passengers ended up in a nearby pub and no doubt had a very good time. But the Communist wasn't really a drinker - half a pint on holiday was his idea of alcohol - so he got bored after a while and decided to set off to walk back to Leeds.

We could never quite work out how far he'd walked but it must have been at least ten miles, through thick snow. He always did have stamina.

He always had determination too, and was always good in a crisis. Little things - like someone leaving the door open when they should have shut it - always drove him nuts. But in any crisis, he would keep calm and cheerful.

We haven't had snow like there was that day for many years, until now. And I am enjoying remembering the Communist, striding along in the snow, secure in the knowledge that either we would come and find him, or that he would be able to walk all the way back home.


Anonymous Ruth said...

What a lovely memory. I wish I could trudge through the snow to Leeds but I fear it's a bit too far for me.

5:30 am  
Anonymous Shooting Parrots said...

Great story. Folk were made of sterner stuff than they are today (he added grumpily).

10:22 am  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Baron Hardup...
"A rather confused, muddled character, who loves his daughter Cinderella, but is bullied and battered by his new wife..." The character notes said nothing about a wannabe polar explorer!

11:28 am  

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