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Global weather experts have been warning of such an abnormally harsh event for the UK since spring, when they reported that the waters of the Eastern Pacific had become abnormally cold.

This cold water produces a weather phenomenon known as La Nina (‘the little girl’).

Yards from my bedroom window, the tower battlements and roof of the medieval parish church were blanketed with snow.

Where the walls of the church were sheltered from the weather, the ironstone they build with in these parts stood out a deep chocolate-brown against the enveloping whiteness.

This reduces the weight of the air, which in turn causes atmospheric pressure to fall at sea level.

The developing low pressure system in turn sucks in air from surrounding regions — in this case, Arctic air from Scandinavia and the East — to create a rapidly increasing whirlpool of violently strong winds and stormy weather (known as an explosive cyclogenesis or bombogenesis).

Look closer, though, and there were splashes of colour everywhere: the bright red of the berries in the snow-caked holly; the faint orange-brown of the bare silver birch trees. The animal world had hunkered down against the cold.

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Calgary was cold enough to host the Winter Olympics in 1988, while Irkutsk, on the shores of frozen Lake Baikal, has a sub-Arctic climate, with temperatures hovering at around minus 19c in January.

Yesterday morning, I woke up at my friends’ house in Northamptonshire, blearily pulled open the curtains and — Oh my God!

— was greeted by a sight of quite staggering beauty. Overnight, a foot of snow had been dumped on the picture-postcard village of Preston Capes.

No health-and-safety nannying here; no helmets or hi-viz jackets.

Children cheerfully rocketed off the edge of the steep hill, headfirst, precariously balanced on the equivalent of a big plastic plate.

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