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The Flat Cap on ... Snowmen

This morning The Flat Cap looked out of his window to find that it had been snowing during the night, and there was about an inch of snow on the ground. This wasn’t a lot given that parts of the UK seem to grind to a halt whenever storms blow in from Siberia, or Canada or somewhere else equally renowned for its bitter winters. Luckily for The Flat Cap he never seems to get the freak conditions that fill hours of news reports and make such good viewing on those severe weather documentaries. Even so he thought it might be a good idea to try and make a snowman and set about looking for his gloves and big coat. The Flat Cap also thought it might be fun to find out a bit more about snowmen in general.

The first thing you need to build a snowman is the right type of snow. This might sound odd but there’s a type of snow called “champagne powder” and because of its low water content it is rather powdery and not much good for making snowmen. It was this rubbish type snow that The Flat Cap encountered when he stepped out into his garden. Anyway having spent half an hour finding his big coat, thick gloves and sensible shoes there was no way he was going to be put off by the wrong snow. Two hours later, and with his snow sculpture looking more like a frosty phallus than Frosty the Snowman The Flat Cap went back indoors to catch the last twenty minutes of Bargain Hunt. It was also a good excuse to warm up with a cup of tea and make a start on the tin of shortbread fingers that had been lying around unopened for more than a fortnight.

People have been building snowmen since at least medieval times. We know this because of the illustrations found in books dating back to the fourteenth century. That isn’t to say that people weren’t building snowmen way before that. And it’s probably a good bet to assume that snowman construction goes back to the beginning of time, or at least the ice age. The problem with snow is that it melts, so if you don’t make a drawing, or take a photograph of your snow sculpture there’s nothing to show it was ever there in the first place. People in ancient times didn’t have cameras anyway. Just to prove his snowman attempt did look a bit like a willy The Flat Cap took a photograph of his to accompany this article; a photograph of the former not the latter of course. Like all good snowmen The Flat Cap attempted to give his creation a face and dress him up a bit. The usual convention is to pop a carrot in the middle of the face to represent a nose. Unfortunately a quick check of his kitchen cupboards revealed only tinned sliced carrots so that’s why The Flat Cap’s snowman doesn’t have an orange nose.

Just after Bargain Hunt had finished The Flat Cap’s window cleaner, Colin turned up and rather unkindly remarked that the garden snowman was “a bit on the thin side”. Furthermore he seemed unimpressed with Bert’s explanation that it was all down to the wrong type of snow. Colin said that you should always add more water to powdery snow if you want to make half decent figures and over a mug of tea he offered a few frosty facts about the humble snowman:

  • Snow is at its best when it nears its melting point as this makes it moist and compact. Then you can roll it into a ball and if it is the right type of snow the ball will pick up more and more snow and become an even bigger ball which you can use for the body of your snowman

  • The first female photographer in Wales was Mary Dillwyn and in 1853 she took the first photograph of a snowman. History does not record what type of snow it was, but chances are it wasn’t the rubbish powdery type

  • The world’s largest snowman was actually a snow-woman. Named after United States Senator Olympia Snowe it measured more than 122 feet high and was made in 2008 in Bethel, Maine

  • On average about 170,000 snowmen are made every winter in the UK. This number rises to over 250,000 if schools are closed for more than two days running

  • Both Hans Christian Andersen and Raymond Briggs wrote stories called The Snowman. Briggs had his story turned into an animated film

  • Russia’s richest man, Leonid Mikhelson employs a team of builders whose sole job is to make snowmen on the family estate. When he gets bored of looking at the snowmen he likes to go sailing on his luxury yacht

  • The Abominable Snowman is part of Nepalese folklore. Said to resemble a large ape and taller than a human being it also goes by the name of Yeti. Its existence is disputed and has yet to be proven. "The Yeti" would make a good name for one of those big wrestlers that you can watch on pay per view television channels

  • What do you get if you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite

  • Snowmen appear on 7% of all commercially produced Christmas cards. This is less than depictions of Jesus (19%) but ahead of holly and mistletoe (5%)

  • Each winter the townsfolk of Anchorage, Alaska build a giant snowman that they name “Snowzilla”

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