I don’t remember the first time I watched The Snowman, but my parents regale me annually with tales of my comically astute 2-year-old observations. Like so many families in Britain, Raymond Briggs’ gentle pencil animations and Howard Blake’s moving score have formed a core part of our most heartfelt nostalgia over the years.
When The Snowman and the Snowdog graced our screens in 2012, I watched anxiously, concerned that the intimate understatements of Briggs’ original would be stretched too thin in this updated version. By the time its 24 minutes had come to an end, however, I was choking back happy-sad sobs in true festive tradition.
And now here I am four years later, footsore and determined, on a mission to welcome this mascot of England’s inner child even further into my own story.
Sam and I have been walking for five hours, from the brightly-coloured beach huts of Hove Lagoon to the concrete cubes of the Marina, with detours through parks and twisting lanes – and pauses for pubs and beachside snacks. In short, we have seen the entire strip of hospitality that is our new hometown – and 38 enormous Snowdogs.
Some brightly painted, some adorned in subtler hues, these monuments to community kitsch form a remarkable public art trail across the city, raising awareness for the local Martlets Hospice, while encouraging Brightonians to explore corners of their city that they may have overlooked before.
I can’t speak for everyone, but given my wind-tangled hair, aching feet and general feeling of Autumnal hygge by the time we admit defeat and settle down for a well-earned pub dinner, it’s certainly worked for us.
As many new sights as we’ve seen over the day – from the water sports on the lagoon to the oriental gate outside the gallery – this has also been a chance to see the settings of our everyday in a whole new light. Instead of rushing past the aquarium as I do every day on my way to work, I’ve paused, admired its sunken splendour, chatted to a fellow dog-seeker. Rather than racing through the lanes, we’ve treated ourselves to a pint while scouring the map for our next discoveries.
In spite of my self-professed spookiness, I can’t think of a sweeter way to welcome a new season in our Brighton story.