It’s February, it’s freezing cold, it’s very windy, the roads are either icy or gravelly or both, it gets dark early, everyone is downbeat and fed up and The Samaritans cancel all leave for their volunteers when the weather forecast is due to be on the telly so I’m almost as sure as I can be that it is the middle of winter but several hours as we now are into the British Isles’ coldest month of the year there is one certain thing missing. Like alcohol free beer, decaff coffee, coke zero, bicycles screwed to the floors of gyms, Liberal Democrats or electronic cigarettes winter without snow is an empty experience, a pale imitation of the real thing, Snow is not an unmitigated good thing, like fags or booze, it can be terrible for livestock and those who have to try and keep them alive, it blocks the roads, causes all kinds of damage, and it generally makes people reach for all the things they’ve been trying to give up since new year but don’t worry because me talking about it won’t make it happen. There’s been sleet and hail of course, which are to snow what a chain store latte is to coffee, even brief flurries of proper pointy flakey floaty snowy stuff and a bit more than that even on some of the higher places but that just serves as a reminder of what is missed, like a faded photo of a lost love. I recognise that these islands have a temperate climate and snow takes a certain coincidence of weather, well a collision in fact, to occur. It needs one of the big Atlantic depressions which bring our precipitation to slam into a cold European high pressure system coming the other way. Snow is not therefore a November to March constant here as it is for others on the same latitude but last year there were drifts on the road over the moor which were too high to see over from the saddle of a bike, majorly disruptive but alpine in beauty and scale and laying on the ground past Easter. What I really long for right now is the sun, for warm breeze on bare arms, for long days and tall drinks but that is still a while away and a wee bit of the white stuff before then would allow this winter to call itself a proper season at last, to hold its head up high right there between autumn and spring, and not just be the black hole of nothingness it has been so far.