We'd rather be writing about the long, hot summer, but we'll take what we can get.
Long Winters: Answers
They tell us that spring will come. And it has, really, every year except 1816, which was called '18-hundred-and-froze-to-death' by many people. They would have been glad of those furry earmuffs Aunt Ethel sent you, so don't be so proud.
Here are the answers to the weather quiz.
- Where was the Frost Fair of 1607 held, and why? The River Thames, because it was frozen over. It was called the 'Little Ice Age'.
- What highly intellectual film features Elizabethans on ice skates? Orlando. You know, the one where Quentin Crisp plays Queen Elizabeth I.
- Why was the Danish defeat in 1658 the result of strange weather? The Swedes didn't need boats to invade. They crossed the frozen Great Belt with an army, darn them.
- What happened in New England on 13 July 1816 that didn't usually happen in the summer? It snowed. The Old Farmer's Almanac accidentally predicted this: a copy boy's joke turned out to be prophetic.
- What caused all the weird weather in Europe and New England in 1816, anyway? A volcano in the East Indies.
- What meteorological phenomenon do some scientist blame on the Black Death? Global cooling. You heard us. According to the theory, the 14th-century plague killed off so many humans that Europe reforested, thus lowering the temperature. Fewer cows, less methane. Something like that. You know scientists.
- Speaking of widespread devastation, what two things killed so many people in Europe in the winter of 1944/45? World War II and the weather. The winter of 1944/45 was the coldest in the 20th Century. Ask an elderly person.
- Who wrote a novel about the harrowing winter of 1880-1881 in South Dakota, and what was it called? Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter. Part of the stories of the 'Little House on the Prairie'.
- What was strange about the 1936 North American cold wave? It was followed by the 1936 heat wave, one of the hottest summers on record.
- What unusual sight was found in South-West England and Wales in the final days of 1962? 20-foot snow drifts.
Look out your window. If the sun is shining, and kangaroos are hopping about, we suspect you are happily ensconced in a reasonable place, like Australia. Or else you live in an artificial habitat on another planet. If there's white stuff all over the ground – if, like your Editor, the snow accumulation has now reached a level almost with the top step of the front walk – then you're probably in the northern hemisphere. Temperate zone, my eye. There's nothing temperate about it. But grin and bear it, and keep the snow shovel handy. It's only for a few more weeks.