A Victorian family
A = Annie
G = Grandmother
G Yes, my dear?
A How many brothers and sisters did you have?
G I had… now let me see … there was … me, Alice, James, then Henry � that`s four, isn`t it? Then Robert and Emily, the twins � so that makes two sisters and three brothers.
A What were they all like? Did they look like you?
G Well, some did and some didn`t. My sister Alice and I were very similar. People used to think we were the twins, but she was two years older than me. We both had fair hair, and when we were young, we used to have lovely ribbons in it. People said I was the pretty one � my sister Alice was so moody, she always looked miserable.
A Who were you closest to?
G Ah, my brother James. He was such a kind boy, always smiling, and so gentle. We were inseparable, we went everywhere together.
A Who did he look like?
G Well, people said James had my mother`s features; same nose, same mouth, while Henry, who was older, was more like Father Henry had thick, dark hair, but James had fair hair like me, and he used to have a parting down the middle. Henry was quite a plump boy, not fat, but he was always well built, like Father.
A What about the twins?
G They were very plain, I seem to remember. When they were babies, no-one could tell them apart, they were so similar. They both had long faces with high foreheads. Robert was very severe and serious � I was quite afraid of him � but then he was so much older than me, we didn`t have much to do with each other. Robert looked middle-aged before he was twenty.
A What about your Mummy and Daddy?
G Ah, Mother was a darling. She used to have her hair in a tight bun, and she looked quite fierce, but she wasn`t really. She had smiling eyes and a heart of gold. Father was a very quiet man, he always looked distant as though he were lost in his own thoughts.
A What were their names?
G Daniel and Clare.
Hitch-hiking in the snow
J = John
L = Linda
J Have I ever told you about the time I nearly froze to death?
L No. When was that?
J Well, it`s a bit of an exaggeration to say I nearly froze to death, but it wasn`t far off.
L Where were you, I mean when �
J It was while I was working in Corsica. Have you ever been to Corsica?
L No, no I haven`t.
J Well, it`s quite a remarkable place, actually. It`s in the Mediterranean, so it`s very hot in summer, and the winters are either mild or quite severe, you know… it depends…
J And the interior is really wild and mountainous. Anyway, I was living in the north in a town called Bastia, and I had friends who lived down in the south in the capital, Ajaccio. It`s not very far away, but the roads are so bad that the journey takes ages. And it was around Easter time, you know, March, April, something like that, and I`d gone down to see them for the weekend, and it had been warm � warm enough to go sunbathing, not enough for actual swimming. And then on the Sunday, we had lunch sitting outside, and it was time for me to get back to Bastia, so I started hitching.
L Had you done that before?
J Oh, yes, no problem. It usually took about three hours. So there I was, standing next to the road, in shirt-sleeves because it was a warm spring day, and I was rather puzzled..
J Well, all these cars were going past with people in jackets and hats and scarves, and skis on the car roof.
L Why? Had it been snowing?
J Yes, you see. We hadn`t heard the weather forecast, but apparently it had been snowing extremely heavily in the mountains, so all these people were setting off for a day`s skiing.
L How odd…
J Mmm. Well I soon got a lift, that was easy, and they took me to the top of the mountain, but, there had been loads of people going up to the top of the mountain, but there just wasn`t anyone going down, not in a car, anyway.
L Oh, no, on skis!
J Right. So I had no choice, I had to start walking. Can you imagine? There I was, in sandals and just a jumper, trying to walk through snowdrifts that came up over my knees!
L Oh, so what did you do? I mean, how …?
J Well, I just carried on walking. At first it wasn`t too bad. It was mid-afternoon, it wasn`t very pleasant but it was very beautiful, and not too cold.
L And did you get a lift?
J Well, every now and again I`d get a lift that took me a few miles, just to the next village, and then I`d have to start walking again. By this time, it was getting dark, and awfully cold. And I started to panic. I was miles from anywhere, it was nearly night time, and I was supposed to be at work at nine o`clock the next day. But all I could do was walk. And the amazing thing was that the snow-ploughs had been round, and where the road was quite wide, they`d pushed huge piles of snow into the middle of the road, and the local kids had pushed holes like doorways into this snow, so it looked like a wall of snow with doors or archways in it. It was very strange. And then it was around sevenish I think, and finally this chap stopped to give me a lift, and … I got in, you know, so pleased at last, and I was going to say �Oh thank-you, thank-you, thank-you�, but I couldn`t talk!
L Why not?
J My jaw had frozen. Honestly. I couldn`t move it.
L Because it was so cold?
J My jaw was absolutely frozen solid. And, would you believe, it didn`t defreeze for ages because this chap`s windscreen had smashed so we drove all the way back to Bastia with the wind and the snow pouring into the car. By this time, I didn`t really care. All I cared about was the fact that he was going to Bastia, and that ultimately we`d get there.
L And you did?
J Yeah. It took a long time. And of course, when I did get back, people didn`t believe that it had been snowing like that, and they certainly didn`t believe my story, but it`s quite true, I assure you.
L So what did you do then?
J Well, I had one or two brandies to help me thaw out. That did the trick. It was quite an experience, and really quite frightening.
L I`m sure it was.