IT LOOKED very much as if we were going to be spending the night in the car, wearing every item of clothing that we had taken on our short break to the east coast, and licking condensation off the windows for sustenance.
Either that or setting out like Scott of the Antarctic on a potentially doomed trudge through the snow to the nearest sign of habitation.
We enjoy a bit of catastrophic thinking in the Stelfox family, so either was possible.
With the icy precipitation falling so quickly that the main A170 Scarborough to Helmsley road was soon liberally covered in the slippery stuff I could only see a cold, damp ending to our weekend away.
Only a few days earlier the Man-in-Charge had been ridiculing the ‘soft southerners’ who had slept in their cars while trapped in a recent Sussex snowstorm. He couldn’t understand why they’d made such a fuss over a few flakes. And now here we were facing the same situation.
We’d had a perfectly pleasant day up to that point – a bracing walk along the promenade in Scarborough (scarved, hatted and gloved against the coastal chill), followed by lunch at Rievaulx Abbey and a stroll around the site in our waterproofs, holding an umbrella for Secondborn so that she could take photographs. This is the sort of weather-challenged weekend holiday that hardy northerners are not only used to but come to expect and even enjoy.
And then the snow started. Huge flakes the size of 50p pieces drifting down and making the abbey look even more picturesque. At first it seemed quite charming.
"It won’t lie," said the woman in the visitor’s centre. "You don’t need to worry."
Five minutes later I wondered if she knew the meaning of the word ‘lie’ in both its senses because it was all too clear that not only was the snow lying but the steep exit road would soon be blocked.
We beat a hasty retreat and congratulated ourselves on escaping in the nick of time – only to find the A170 blocked instead.
The traffic had ground to a halt over high ground where an ominous sign read ‘20% incline’. No-one, it seemed, was willing to risk it.
"We’ll have to turn back," said the Man-in-Charge, who managed a five-point skid to get into the Scarborough-bound lane.
I had visions of spending another night away, nestled in a cosy pub with a plateful of beef and ale pie. It would be quite fun, I thought to myself, to be snowed in, and not a tragedy at all as long as we didn’t have to sleep in the car.
We rang Firstborn to ask him to check on the cats and the rabbit. He Googled a weather report and relayed the bad news.
"If you can get home at all tonight then you should," he said, "It’s only going to get worse."
It was difficult at that point to imagine how much worse it could get. But then as we travelled east the snow began to thin out and the rain took over.
The MIC stopped at a petrol station and instructed me to stock up with unwholesome snacks ‘just in case.’
"Don’t worry about the calories," shouted The Girl, as I climbed out of the car.
The visions of roaring log fires and hearty food were receding , to be replaced with bags of Quavers, vanilla-flavoured Hobnobs and Picnic bars. By the time we reached Pickering there was not even a hint of snow.
"How strange is that?" said the MIC. "It’s like we’re in a different country."
"No," I said, "just Yorkshire."
And that’s the brilliant thing about going on holiday in the UK’s largest county. Over the space of one weekend we had every type of weather and landscape – from brilliant sunshine in craggy Whitby and crisp, sub-zero temperatures at sandy Scarborough to torrential driving rain on the misty moors and snow of the purest white in the pastoral scenic setting of Rievaulx.
A Chinese friend once asked me why English people (Northerners, in particular) were so interested in the weather. "You talk about it all the time," she said.
"That’s because we have a lot of it," I replied. And we know how to make the best of it!