My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

The infinite majesty of the snow day

For the last two weeks, I took the bus between Bury and Thetford to get to work, since the teacher who normally gives me a ride was off on paternity leave. The bus ride itself is pleasant and not that long (nor is it ever crowded), although the twenty-minute walk to and from the bus station can be inconvenient when you’re half-awake in the morning or tired at the end of the day! I would leave twenty minutes early, set a brisk pace with my long legs and some energetic music (Florence, Amanda Palmer, and Of Monsters and Men are high on my list these days), and venture forth into the darkness. Then we got snow, which was exciting but didn’t necessarily make those walks easier.

Last Wednesday, I woke up to find the ground covered in a thin layer of snow. It wasn’t much by my Canadian standards—I brought neither my heavy winter coat nor my snow boots, and I don’t regret that decision so far. I pulled on my running shoes, tossed my dress shoes in my bag, and made my usual trek to the bus station. My bus was on time despite the snowfall, and I got into school at the usual time. As I walked up to the doors, one of the IT technicians hailed me from where he was getting out of his car. “Ben,” he said, “the school’s closed!” He offered me a lift home.

To reiterate, there was only a few centimetres of snow on the ground. That was enough to bring England—or at least our part of Norfolk—to a grinding halt. The snow was not particularly bad in Thetford, but the roads from Norwich were so bad—or at least so accident-prone—that many of the teachers couldn’t make it into school. This is one difference from most of Canada, where teachers tend to live in the same city or town as the school where they work! The other relevant difference in this case would be our familiarity with heavy snowfalls. In Canada, it would be any other day as usual. Here, it was one of the most magical of days: a snow day.

I elected to stay. It sounds somewhat crazy, or at least very boring and adult of me. I was already there, though. I had spent an hour walking to a bus station and riding a bus in order to get there. If I turned around, I knew I wouldn’t do much work—and while we all enjoy an unanticipated day off in the middle of the week, I really needed to do some work. So myself and another teacher spent most of the day in the staff room, planning, marking, and organizing. It was glorious, because I felt productive, and when I left the school—early, mind you—I felt more prepared. That feeling has persisted into this week, with one of my most productive weekends ever.

I brought home some controlled assessments to mark over the weekend but procrastinated. On Sunday afternoon, the snow was falling again—and it didn’t stop until late Sunday night. Another snow day was a serious possibility, so I went to bed at my regular time, but I was buoyed by the prospect of one more day of rest. Sure enough, although my ride and I were five minutes out of Bury when the call came, the school was indeed closed for the day. We returned to our homes, and I enjoyed this snow day in an entirely different fashion from my first.

In addition to getting those assessments marked (procrastination pays off again), I: read, tried to build a snowman, and installed Steam for Linux and discovered FTL: Faster Than Light.

I’m reading About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews by Samuel R. Delany. It’s fascinating and amazing, and I am enjoying how dense and rich every chapter is.

The snowman was a complete failure. I tried to get the snow to cohere, but it just wasn’t working. It was perfect packing snow for snowballs, but I didn’t have coworkers or twins around to start a snowball fight with me. So I returned to the warmth of the house.

I’m not quite sure what brought me to install Steam for Linux. I haven’t played much more than Portal and its sequel on Steam for Windows—I’m too reluctant to set aside the time to boot into Windows solely to game. But Assassin’s Creed 3 has been disappointing me, and so for some reason I decided to explore Steam a little more. I looked around for game recommendations, then I installed FTL. It’s a starship command strategy game that is challenging without being too frustrating. It’s extremely well designed in that regard: I keep dying, over and over, but I cannot stop playing. Hats off.

So in two weeks, I’ve had two very different snow days! School opened an hour late this morning to ensure everyone had time to get there. The students were very wound up and excited by the presence of snow; for the second time someone pulled a fire alarm to get everyone out on the field, which of course devolved instantaneously into a massive snowball melee. But whatever. I’m Canadian. I’m used to the snow; it reminds me of home, and these are interesting times indeed. I just wish I could be enjoying the snow with some of my friends back home—it’s too bad we didn’t have much over Christmas.