Now this is what a “real” winter looks like, says Blackpool based photographer Libby Nightingale.
Snow feet rather than inches deep, pipes freezing up so fast locals turn out with blow torches to fast thaw surrounds, schools only closing when temperatures fall to a level which can damage a child’s lungs. That’s minus 15 degrees Celsius, says Libby.
That’s what life has been like for the local award winning photographer for the last three and a half winters in Bulgaria.
Libby doesn’t do things by half measures. She and husband David host photo workshops around the world via their online photo blog and business Chromasia Training. They traded winters in Blackpool for Bulgaria four years ago.
That worked until Libby noticed she was going it alone with six of their seven children through too much of the bleak Bulgarian midwinters. The last straw came when temperatures plummeted so low pipes froze at their rural hillside retreat for days. David was in “sunny Dubai,” Libby recalls.
“The mayor turned out with a team of volunteers to blow torch the ground above the pipes to help thaw them out,” Libby adds. “They did that for about 11 hours. Can you imagine that happening in Blackpool?”
The family have now decided to over-winter in Blackpool and spend more of the summer at their Bulgarian home.
“It’s probably the best way round although the kids miss winter in Bulgaria and can’t believe what all the fuss is about here when it snows here.
“‘Call this snow?’ they say. It’s also too wet. In Bulgaria it’s cold but the snow’s dry and you can have more fun with it and enjoy it. Here it’s soggy stuff. Snow for wimps!”
Libby says the secret of life in a cold climate is preparation. “You get your wood supplies stacked early, Bulgarians are also great bottlers of food to see them through winter, although I went for tinned or frozen food. If the power failed you could always put food outside. Our Petchka wood burning stove for cooking and heating proved a lifesaver. And the Bulgarians just get on with winter. The snow ploughs come out, roads and railway tracks are cleared, schools stay open, buses and trains keep running. Roads are passable with snow tyres and chains.”
Bulgaria’s snow scenes are well documented as both Libby and David are keen photographers. They host international photo workshops right here in the resort - when David isn’t jet setting off to Dubai, Venice, the Bahamas or other exotic settings for photo shoots, special commissions for corporate clients or David’s master classes.
“I think we’ve helped many see Blackpool in a different light,” admits Libby who will present workshops, whittled down to the basics, for beginners later this year. She’s one of many (semi) expats to share winter’s tales with us after life almost ground to a halt with the first flurries of snow settling.
Some refugees from the resort can’t work out what the fuss is about. Nor can one local man, 400m athlete Brent Starkie, who continued training at Stanley Park athletics track after “gaining use of a shovel and clearing a section of the track to enable me and a small group to run.”
Electrician Rob Morley, who lives in the Pyranees Orientales, says: “Many assume the south of France has no snow but here in the mountains I often work above the snowline. The French tend to be well prepared, roads are cleared, snow tyres used, life goes on.”
Fellow Blackpool expat Robin Mallinder has lived in Vancouver for 10 years. “We are blessed with amazing ski conditions from November-May, 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. We finish work and shoot up there to ski. Most have a decent 4x4 or quality snow tyres/chains. I often go to places that deal with -20 everyday. People get on with it - schools are open, people get to work, people go out jogging, do the shopping, take the dogs for walks. It’s just part of life. My wife is from Calgary where -30 is no rarity. When she came to live with me for a year in Blackpool she said it felt colder than Calgary in winter.”
As for the pick of our snow tweets? Sandra Byrne, who now lives in Connecticut, USA, tweeted: “We get our fair share of snow but I’m sure Blackpool doesn’t have the equipment to deal with even slight snow fall.”
Nick McCardle posted: “I live in Vermont. Winters have been mild for the past few years with less than 10ft of snow fall a year. When I first moved here 20ft snowfall a year was normal. Good snow tyres, sturdy shovel and porridge for breakfast does the job!”
Yorkshireman Matthew Phelps tweeted: “Snow socks on my drive tyres ensured I didn’t have to walk to work today!” Snaylmer posted: “3cm of snow closes Blackpool schools, meanwhile snow high as 1.5m in Bulgaria and life goes on” while Andrew Shorrock wrote: “I live in Germany now where all-season or winter tyres are mandatory over winter.”
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