E and I climbed onto our second bus of three at around ten in the morning. The X66 from the Metrocentre to Gateshead. The snow, shallowly crystalline as we left one set of friends, and melting fast, had all but disappeared from the bus route as we headed to our second set. But it had been enough to launch the conversation between our fellow passenger and us, if not the sledge dragged by the girl we had passed on the way to our first bus, up at Rowlands Gill.
Our companion told us how, at five, as she left for the morning shift at the shopping centre, the snow had fallen pristine. "I love to walk on the fresh snow," she said, "Just a big kid; my son's the same." We drove past the forecourt of one of the light industrial workshops scattered between the Metrocentre and Gateshead proper, and I imagined her son, burly, confident, scuffing through Geordie snow with his workboots on.
Then she said, "I've still got their first snowballs, you know. I'm a hoarder. I can't get rid of them. The first ones they made. They're in a tupperware box. I'll give them to my son and daughter when they're thirty."
"How old are they now?" I asked, meaning the snowballs.
"He's twenty eight, and my daughter's twenty three."
After a moment she continued: "Ee, I had a panic when we changed the freezer. I put them in a coolbox, all wrapped up, and took them to my sister's! And my son's girlfriend, when she came round, my son said, 'Take a look what me mam keeps in the tupperware - '"
Now she laughed, aghast at herself: "He said, once, 'See what I can get for them on Ebay -'"
"What do they look like?" I asked.
"They're a bit smaller now than they were." she admitted.
We got off the bus at Gateshead, with cheerful goodbyes. Twenty minutes later E and I were on and off our third bus, in Birtley, and the meltwater was making music on the town's greystone walls. We walked the Durham Road to the church, and the christening of our friends' new baby in it.