On The Question Of Snow And Working From Home

As is well documented, Britain has been hit by a lot of snow (by our standards). Where I live, we’re not the worst hit by a long way, but at lunch time our children’s school was closed down. This afternoon, we heard it will be shut tomorrow. At present, we are forecast to have snow every day until Monday at least.

The children are thrilled. I am not.

Why? I love my children dearly, but having them around the house even more when I am supposed to be working is murder. They will be in my study fighting over the use of their laptop and if not fighting about that, then either monopolising Debbie’s and my desktop or just plain vanilla fighting. As children do. The hazards of being someone who works from home mean that in these circumstances much less gets done. I am the sort of person who needs peace and solitude for preparation. All on top of the fact that the conditions mean I can’t get  out to coffee mornings, hospital visits and the like.

Other things have taken on a higher priority these past couple of days. I am catching up on some paperwork. I installed Windows7 on my laptop, and will upgrade the desktop when I can do a proper backup of everything first. I changed the security suite on all three computers. With Debbie’s help, the study is unusually tidy. But few of these things will impress my church members.

Other things remain constant. I am preparing a sermon for Sunday in much the usual manner. But the meeting and greeting, pressing the flesh aspects of ministry which personalise it – and on which ministers are often judged, regardless of theology or other qualities- takes a hit at times like these.

And there is little I can do about it. Oh, I can phone people instead of visiting them. I can ask the full time hospital chaplain to see someone on a ward on my  behalf, all assuming he can get in to work. But these are substitute measures, and one has to hope that people will be gracious.


  1. Yes, Dave, we’ve been hearing lots in NSW about the “big freeze” going on in your part of the world! I know getting out and about would be challenging to say the least. Of course, we are just the opposite here, with typical summer weather, lots of rain north and on the coast and south-west still in drought. Love my sunburnt country though. In a couple of days, my family & I are leaving to tour south island of New Zealand for two weeks – visiting our close neighbour is something I’ve been wanting to do.
    I’m sure your parishioners will be understanding of your (temporary) absence & I look forward to catching up on your blogs when I return from NZ.
    PS: Aust has just scored an incredible comeback win over Pakistan in the Boxing Day cricket test – all is now well with the world!


    1. I would have made a cheap joke about the Ashes re your PS but it would look hollow if England don’t hold on for a draw with South Africa today!


  2. There will always be the handful of church members who expect the minister to keep going as usual, battling through the snowdrifts to have a cup of tea with Mrs Thingy. But the majority will know that you face the same dangers as everyone else – if you can’t get the car out of your street, and you’ve already sat down hard on ice at least once, you can’t be expected to walk five miles to do a visit, etc. A few strategic phone calls – “I wanted to visit, but I can’t actually get out, so how are you coping?” – will get the grapevine going, so when you do get to someone, it is appreciated.

    In fact, the majority will appreciate you anyway. Those who aren’t impressed – well, tough. I did a funeral the other day. The next of kin had to drive over the previous day and stay in a pub overnight, because they would not have made it otherwise. The chapel and crem were on main routes which are clear – no problem. But I wouldn’t even think of getting to our hilltop villages.


    1. One of my issues is about the safety of getting to a particular village. As of a few minutes ago, I have heard it is a bit better.


  3. Interesting thoughts Dave and of course much of this is about the perception of us lay members of the church who all know very well that you ordained folks only work one day a week(lol).
    But seriously isn’t there a possibility that many of our members are of an age where they remember days when snow didn’t cause school closures, everyone either got to work or at least made an effort to and the country didn’t grind to a halt at the first sign of snowflakes. I think this leads inevitably to the old ‘Well in my day we never let a bit of snow stop us’ and in part they have a point I suppose. The schools I attended never closed no matter what the weather threw at us not even in the worst of weather,if the heating was broke we kept our coats on and carried on working regardless.
    It was interesting on Wednesday when the operations director at the organisation I work for sent us all a copy on the bad weather policy and stated at the end of her email that it was ‘Business as usual’ but according to rumour had sent the email from home.
    Perhaps if the bad weather continues we will have to suggest to conference that each circuit has some sleighs and huskies that ministers can use to ensure that their flock are not disappointed because the weather has curtailed their activity in respect of visiting etc. or then again perhaps we just need to be more realistic!!


    1. FP,

      Yes, I think that’s part of a whole debate in society about why extreme weather causes gridlock these days. Whether it’s a rose-tinted memory of the past or whether circumstances have changed, I don’t know.

      In the end, yesterday (Wednesday) I managed a visit to an elderly person who is quite ill, only driving the main roads (after negotiating the treacherous ones on our estate) and then parking on a main road and walking to her road.

      As for the abandoned hospital visit, it turned out I had wrong information and the person I thought had been admitted hadn’t!


  4. It has become a tradition that whenever it snows anything like heavily, out come stories of 1947, 1962, etc, when people allegedly kept going. What folk forget is that in those days comparatively few people had cars, most people were close enough to walk to work if the busses couldn’t move, and everything was much more local – and therefore accessible. We travel further these days, far more people commute, families are scattered, more people fly or take long train journeys – and we depend on so much more technology, our energy needs are vastly greater than a few decades ago.

    However (cue for a 1978 story!), when I was a student in Bristol we had several inches of snow. Churches all over the southwest were phoning to cancel preaching appointments because people couldn’t get out, there were two busses stuck on Henbury Hill, etc. That was the week of our annual exchange with the German Methodist Seminary at Reutlingen, which was then training ministers for the West German, Swiss and Austrian Methodist churches. Who said Germans have no sense of humour? – these guys were in stitches! They were used to dealing regularly with 10-foot snowdrifts, and Britain was paralysed by a few inches. One of them diagnosed the situation perfectly: “You don’t get winter, ” he said, “you get tastes.” Spot on. So like this time, we’re surprised when we get a reasonable helping….


  5. “plain vanilla fighting”…I love that! There’s quite a lot of that which goes on round here, too…I commend you for your attempts to try to do your work (knowing you need quiet and solitude to meet that end) with your little darlings keeping their sibling rivalry alive! 🙂 I can’t imagine how hard that must be. It’s difficult enough when I don’t have a congregation depending on me for spiritual leadership and comfort! Hopefully your flock has been gracious and understanding about your inability to “manoeuver” in the past days, due to the inclement weather. Blessings to you and your family, Dave.


    1. Oh definitely ‘plain vanilla’, Eileen: it was a bit of an in-joke. Our son Mark loves the plainest of tastes: vanilla ice cream, nothing fancy, and so on!


  6. In the 1930s, I travelled 16 miles -and my cousin 30 miles – by train form Teesdale to Bishop Auckland Girls’ Grammar School, which kept going however much snow there was. Bur we Barnard Castle and Teesdale girls couldn’t get there if the snow blocked the rail in a narrow cutting en route. The recent TV pictures of a farmer on the border of Durham and Cumbria were as I remember the snow up there in those distant days, and I think that farmer would be the current owner of my Grandfather’s farm! Bur here in Reading in 2010 we don’t have the snowploughs to deal with the current depth of snow.


    1. And all I remember is the snow of the early 1960s when I was a small child! I remember being snowed in during March 1965 at the time of my birthday. However, I had tonsillitis and wouldn’t have been allowed out anyway. 1963 was reputedly bad, wasn’t it, but I was little bigger than a toddler then, so I can’t vouch for any memories.


  7. Hi Dave. I thought you might like to hear my story about ‘when it used to snow’? I’m not going too far back; even though it’s aeons to my daughters, but I remember when I was working at St Barts hospital Rochester as a student nurse, (around ’79-‘ 80). It snowed heavily overnight and there was no way I was going to be able to get a bus or train and my dad definitely wasn’t going to get the car out of the garage:in fact, another interesting thing that I point out to my regular little users of ‘Hayhow taxis’, he rarely did in any weather. I had drawn the short straw and was due to start work at 7.15am. After a hearty breakfast and bundled up like an intrepid explorer, I set off walking. Yes, walking from Rainham to Rochester. After about 2hrs I reached the ward and was so pleased with myself for only being 45mins late! The first thing the sour faced old Matron said to me was,’you’re late girl and there are no possible excuses; you will stay late tonight to make up for it and sleep in the Nurse’s Home so that you’re not late tomorrow’. I think everyone’s gone soft today!!!


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