In Ireland, even one to three inches would probably be enough to grind the country to a halt, at least temporarily. People from other, snowier, countries can't understand how the Irish are so ill-prepared for the bad weather they've been having lately; how they send their children out to play in the snow in jeans and sneakers with a tea-tray to slide on; how they stand waiting for the train in freezing temperatures wearing snow-absorbing coats and no hats; how they try to walk on icy footpaths in slippy leather shoes or idiotic high heels; how an inch or two of snow causes schools to close and cars to crash.
Thing is, despite the fact that it happened last year too, this sort of weather just isn't Irish. Irish winters are all about the chill, the wind, the rain - but not the snow. Ireland never has a white Christmas, even though the bookies will always give you odds on it and the weatherman on the telly (or -lady, Evelyn Cusack) will tell you every Christmas Eve what the chances are (usally slim to none).
When I was little, snow was mostly a thing of fairy-tale and legend. Every couple of winters a few flakes would fall, and the refrain that rang through every child's heart was "Will it stick? Is it sticking?" It never stuck. The ground was always too wet, the temperature just a little too high. We'd stand outside staring straight up, marvelling at the tiny dots swirling out of the empty white sky, sticking out our tongues, hoping against hope that this might be the year that it would stick, that school would be closed. Once every three years, perhaps, it would stick for a day, or an afternoon. Time enough for everyone to enjoy the magic of time standing still; not long enough for anyone to run out of toilet paper or even turf briquettes. Before your jeans were even dry from your tray-top adventure, wet grey concrete was probably reclaiming the soft whiteness outside, and tomorrow would be another boring snowless day.
Once every ten years or so there was a big snow. The winter I was 6, I remember trudging up through snow so deep that in some places it went over the top of my wellies. (Then again, my legs weren't very long in 1980.) The year I was 17 there was wonderful snow the weekend before we were due to go back to school, and all we future exam candidates rejoiced perhaps a little too hysterically happily. There were throngs of people on the local hill, sliding on tyres and binbags and every now and then an actual sled (I had one, thanks to having a dad who liked to make things out of wood). In between those years, I remember heavy frosts and maybe an inch or two of snow that stuck, but that's really all we got.
This is why Irish people don't know how to dress for snow. We know that layers are good against the cold, we persist in using umbrellas in strong winds, but nobody lays in stocks of snow dungarees and snowboots for their constantly growing kids - why would you do that? Snow gear is not readily and cheaply available the way it is in other places (viz, to wit: my children's $15 snow boots from Target) because it's only found in Pamela Scott on Grafton St, where the people who go on ski holidays shop, or in The Great Outdoors on Wexford St where the mountain climbing enthusiasts buy their expensive goretex jackets and carabiners.
Maybe after last winter's snow, Dunnes Stores has laid in stocks of inexpensive, warm, wetproof, non-slip footwear and jackets and bottoms. Maybe people decided to buy that stuff in case this winter turned out like last winter. (But historically, as you can see, that wasn't likely.) Maybe people are believing the experts who say that heavy snowfall in November/December is a portent of more of the same in January and February. Or maybe every time we Irish see snow, and see it go, we assume that's it for another few years. By which time the kids will be three sizes bigger, so why would we buy stuff now?
Well, I've packed our cheap snowboots and Mabel's snowsuit (from a yard sale), and we all have warm jackets, and I'm giving my dad a set of non-slip thingys to attach to the soles of his shoes so that when he insists on going to the shops in the Arctic conditions, he'll have a fighting chance of staying right-side-up. Somehow I still don't believe it'll be snowy in Dublin, but I'm trying to pack for it anyway.
Now my biggest dilemma is how to keep the children indoors and away from the fluffy white stuff this afternoon, so that I can leave their snow gear clean and dry in the suitcase, where it belongs.