It all came as a bit of a beautiful shock when snow fell on the Costa del Sol this week. Ok, I'm sure Captain Oates wouldn't have been too discombobulated at the intensity of the falling flakes but it it was quite a moment nonetheless.
Snow is perhaps the most evocative of all meteorological phenomena. Balmy summer evenings, unexpected rain storms and soft autumn winds all have an important role in stirring memories within us but there's nothing like a bit of snow to tickle our nostalgia neurons. The sight of it floating softly to the ground invariably makes me recall being hauled into the headmaster's office at school for mashing a huge snowball into Mark McKevitt's face one lunchtime. Foolishly, he'd dropped a handful of freezing flakes down the back of my shirt between French and Chemistry and so, instead of balancing equations for an hour, I'd employed my allotted time much more productively, plotting sweet revenge throughout the class. Admittedly, the 'snowball' I manufactured was at least fifty per cent playground grit and, also admittedly, the poor chap was wearing glasses but, come on, he'd brought it upon himself hadn't he? I was just making sure the last couple of flakes were correctly inserted into his nostrils, when our annoyingly over-zealous geography teacher appeared on the scene. He - as was de rigueur in those days - pulled me by the ear the not inconsiderable distance to the headmaster's door where I was made to wait outside, listening to the thwack-and-yelp soundtrack from within. These were other boys getting caned for a variety of misdemeanours. When eventually, it was my turn, Old Crofty called me in and proceeded to poke me repeatedly in the solar plexus with his cane, simultaneously turning red in the face and bellowing something unintelligible about snowballs, grit, faces and boys with glasses being blinded by idiots like me.
I'll always be grateful to the two older lads who, just as I was holding out my hand for a damn good thrashing, were shoved directly into the office charged with a much more heinous crime (fighting in the dining room, I think). Old Crofty's attentions were immediately turned to more important matters and - phew! - I was off the hook.
There's no doubt about it - snow and nostalgia are inextricably linked. Just ask Mark McKevitt.