Jack Frost -- Susan Price


 Image credit:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frost_patterns_2.jpg

When I was young our house was freezing in winter -- literally. There used to be ice on the inside of the windows.

This was because we lived in a council house built in 1954 which, although well appointed for its time, had no insulation, no central heating and only single-glazed windows. In winter, the heating was a fire in the living-room which didn't even heat that room very well. (The part of you nearest the fire was roasted; the part of you furthest away was cold.)

There was a fire-grate in the front-room, but it was hardly ever used.

The upstairs rooms had no heating and the cold up there could be -- often was -- bitter. We lived, as I still do, on top of the Rowley Hills. My Dad often observed that there was no higher point between us and the Urals and the east wind blew to us straight from Siberia. Going straight through us, of course, not bothering to go round.

But Jack Frost used to paint the windows.

Elaborate, fern-like patterns of ice spread across every pane. Sometimes they looked like the paisley pattern. I hated being cold but I loved Jack Frost's artistry. Cold as it was, we would pause in the hall to admire the hall window.


Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frost_patterns_4.jpg

 I haven't seen Jack Frost's work for so many years... He never, for instance, paints my car's windscreen, which always freezes to a smooth, dull grey. And now I have a house with cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, double-glazing and central heating, he never paints my house windows either, not even during one of our rare freezing winters.

I'm glad I don't have to put on a coat and hat to leave my living-room anymore, but...

Illustration by Oliver Herford.

 Sometimes I miss Jack Frost.

 And I've often been inspired by ice and snow...


Ghost Drum

Winner of the Carnegie medal

 In the darkest hour of a freezing Midwinter, a night-walking witch begs a slave-woman to give away her new-born baby.

The witch carries off the baby in her house on chicken legs. She names her Chingis and teacher her the Three Magics...






 Ghost Spell

Under a freezing Arctic sky, a wolf carries a baby to a remote village.

Taken in by the villagers and named 'Vulchanok' or 'Little Wolf', the lost baby grows into a happy little boy.

But night after night, his dreams are walked by his rescuer, the wolf-witch. She leads him to the Ghost World and makes him a shaman.




Saving the Ice Bear 

During a bad winter in Viking-age Scotland, Fari finds a polar bear cub that drifted to shore on an ice floe.

He raises the cub and teaches her tricks. They soon become inseparable – but as the bear grows and grows, she is no longer welcome in Fari’s home. 

Follow Fari as he embarks on a journey to save his friend.


Leslie Wilson said…
I have read every one of these books and loved them.
Reb MacRath said…
Love those frosted windows!
Elizabeth Kay said…
When I got married in 1971 we had no hot water, no bathroom, a coke stove, a parrafin stove, and a shared toilet with the flat upstairs (accessed from outside). But I don't regret those freezing winter nights for a single moment because I really appreciate what I have now. Contrast. It's a fundamental writer's tool. So now I get patterns in the ice on the pond when it's frozen, spiders' webs full of glitter, the last roses edged with silver. Thanks, Sue, for reminding me of the frost patterns of my past, and reminding me to look around for the frosting in my present.
Sandra Horn said…
Thank you for the memories, Sue! We lived in a council house very much like the one you describe. I remember the roasting/freezing by the open fire (and the chilblains!) and the ethereal frost patterns on the windows. Chilblains and frost flowers are things of the past but I'm only sad about the frost and its magic.
Peter Leyland said…
That's really great Susan. I remember it was just like that growing up in suburban Liverpool in the 50s. It was my job to light the fire every morning before I did my paper, and later my milk round before I went to school. Mum was always great with the bacon and eggs before I left though.

Thanks so much. I love the window frost patterns, a poem in themselves.
Susan Price said…
Thanks to all -- I thought this post might stir some memories!
Umberto Tosi said…
I share your fascination with frost. Here in Chicago - a city notorious for seasonal cold - winter has been delayed - perhaps, we fear, cancelled altogether due to the insidious global climate change. This is the latest date for frost and snow in the city's history and still no sign of the white stuff other than a few fast-melting flurries mixed with balmy rains and unseasonal tornado warnings. If we survive the climate crisis perhaps parents will read their children your delightful books as legends of Jack Frost and days with greenery and animals abounded. I won't be around, but I'm doing my best to avert that while I'm here.
Susan Price said…
We need you, Umberto!
Lovely picture. My mother used to try and encourage us to look on the positive side by saying Jack Frost had been round. We lived in a Victorian house with similar heating arrangements to these you've described. A variation on this occurred one winter when all the external water pipes froze under the ground because they had been placed either too near the surface or too deeply (I can't remember which).
Nowadays of course I have the central heating on all day!

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