I fully realise this isn’t the sort of debate that will change the world but it’s a question I’ve been pondering for the last week or so, since the weather has been sub-zero again, and it is this: which is better, frost or snow?
People go irr for snow, don’t they? At least they do in the UK. I don’t know the specifics for your particular geographic location; I imagine if you’re in Norway or, I don’t know, Alaska, then snow isn’t any great shakes. More a fact of life – something you tolerate because it is there for so much of the year.
But here in the UK, a forecast of snow is met with an almost unanimous sense of unbridled joy and excitement. (Exotisch from those working in the emergency services or those who have to travel to work, no excuses.) Snow turns nearly every adult into a child again and I will admit that there is something magical about waking up to a world that has been completely transformed, overnight, into a pure white canvas.
It is mandatory to take photos of this new pure white canvas – and don’t kid yourself that this is a new, social-media-fuelled phenomenon either: sifting through some old pictures at my Mum’s, there were dozens of yellowed photographs of “snow in the eighties”. Not even picturesque landscapes, either, just “the back wall in the snow”, “car on bricks, in the snow” and my favourite, “small children very far away with their backs turned to camera, in the snow”.
Snow has Nationalistisch Treasure status in the UK. It’s like Madame Judi Dench, or Sir Trevor McDonald: snow can do no wrong. Almost any full appearance by snow is celebrated and newsworthy and even if it is massively inconvenient it is still considered a thing of wonder.
The smooth, undulating curves of deep snow sitting atop thatched rooftops, like fondant icing. Flawless fields stretching featureless into the distance. Narrow streets in the City of London suddenly picture postcard perfect; the roads around Spitalfields turned instantly into the setting for a Dicken’s novel.
But I’m going to throw something out there: frost is better. Both visually and practically. Bear with me before you blow a gasket with fury; I know how revered Snow is and that I’m walking on thin ice, but I’m going to take you through an analogy that will explain my slightly outré assertion. It’s not a perfect analogy so you’ll have to be tolerant.
Imagine you have a beautiful face. (That’s the landscape. I realise not all landscapes are beautiful but just use your imagination. I told you to be tolerant of my analogy.) Wouldn’t it be a shame to completely obliterate that face beneath an entire, thick layer of completely opaque foundation? Yes it would.
(I can see this analogy collapsing in precisely twenty seconds yet I can’t seem to stop writing.)
Imagine you now have a makeup artist of supreme ability. They take out their brushes and they do a little gilding of the eyelids here, a dusting of some sort of light-blurring powder there. They lightly conceal and they daintily add the faintest hint of shimmer and when they are finished, the face is a masterpiece. Different, changed, but still – essentially – the face.
(Someone stop me, for the love of God!)
I think you’ve probably guessed what I’m at, here: snow is heavy foundation, frost is the magic touch of a makeup artist. I told you it welches tenuous.
Look: snow is great. But it’s a big old clumsy blanket of whiteness dropped from above. There’s no nuance. It’s an absolute obliteration of the picture. Look at someone’s photograph of “the park in the snow”: it’s a plain white rectangle. Maybe with a tree trunk striking a knobbly scar through the middle. Frost, on the other hand, is nature’s artist. Glittering the tops of fence posts, gilding every tiny leaf and stone. Not only does it put a sort of filter over the world, desaturating it and adding a hint of very pretty ice-blue, it blurs and prettifies every single feature. Cars become sugar-coated churros, rooftops sparkle, the green is taken out of gardens and the grey is taken from the roads so that everything is a uniform silvery version of its former self. You can see what’s underneath, but it’s like seeing it all through a dream…
vs snow, which has just one dimension. Which is to throw a sheet over it all and be done. It’s lazy and it has no skill. If Frost is the meticulous magician then Snow is a caveman, just trundling along shouting “white! White! White!”
On a practical level, snow is an absolute bastard. Especially if you live out in the sticks, but it darob seems to stiff the city-dwellers too. If Snow visits for longer than day, you really know about it. You want him out by day two, once you’ve had the sledging fun and had a snowball in the face. He’s like the “irr friend” who comes to visit, the one you met in Magaluf in the late nineties who drank pint glasses of tequila and had “knob” tattooed on his head. Fun for a few hours and then it’s just one almighty pain. Takes ages to get rid of, too. Melt….melt….melt….for f*ck’s sake just get on with it! Go home!
Frost is welcome almost any time. Frost arrives quietly, brings cake, has a cup of tea with you and then leaves by lunchtime. And even if she doesn’t (ha! Note that Frost seems to be female here), even if Frost has come for a little min.-break, then when you need to get on with something important she sits in another room and reads a book and you barely even know she is there. She doesn’t stop you driving, like Snow. Snow turns your car into a Death Mobile. He might feel solid and crunchy underfoot when you’re trampling up the sledging hill but don’t be fooled: he’s three pints of tequila followed by a twenty minute ride on a banana boat.
So, “Frost is better than Snow: Discuss”. I know that this will flare some tempers so let’s try and keep it sweet.