Saturday, 19 December 2009

And now, the weather..

It doesn't snow a lot in the UK, especially in the south east of the country, or the Home Counties, as they like to call the area..

So when it does snow, the wintry weather is guaranteed to make headline news and to be the first item on every news broadcast. Last winter it snowed so hard on one day, that London came to an absolute standstill. For the whole day almost every government office and private business was shut. Schools were closed, (for everyone's safety was the explanation given..). The London Underground was shut down, London buses were parked securely in their terminals. This was unprecedented. In fact, when I rang my office to explain that I was snowed in and wouldn't be able to make it to work because the pavement on my street was under 1 foot of snow and was therefore impassable without great risk to my person, the phone just rang and rang and rang.. It was clear that nobody else had managed to make it to the office.

In reality, it seemed more like everyone was glad for the opportunity to take the day off, because I couldn't imagine that all the children I saw on sledges on the shallow slopes in my local park, or others joyously building snowmen and throwing snow balls at each other, were "safer" in the park out in the wild wintry weather, than they would be in their perfectly safe classrooms at school. Many adults too, who otherwise would have been stooped over a desk doing a boring job in an office, let their hair down and rollicked in the snow alongside the children.

There's something about the snow in England and the effect that it has on the people who live here. When it snows people get excited.. It has been snowing again over the last few days and for the first time ever, I even had to scrape off ice from the windscreen this morning before I could drive my car, although I was glad when the heating inside the car finally kicked in and I realised how much better-off I was than those poor souls on foot, who were shivering and sloshing their way towards the bus stop through the inches-thick slippery snow and ice on the pavements..

The local Council had kindly seen to it that the main roads were gritted, so the drive to work wasn't too bad. The snow too was kind, because it stopped snowing long enough for the sun to come out and make it a quite pleasant afternoon. However, on the way back home this evening it had started snowing again. On the 10 O'clock news were numerous reports about the effects of the snow. Three of London's four major airports were closed for several hours, most schools were closed, most train services were delayed due to snow on the line, etc, etc..

The only other story on the news (apart from the goings-on at the Copenhagen climate summit and the obligatory shocking crime report from the Old Bailey), was that of an unfortunate couple who had picked today of all days, for their church wedding in a country church somewhere in Kent. Unfortunately, neither the couple nor any of their guests were able to make it to the church, because the roads had become impassable because of the heavy snow. The bride's sister is said to have telephoned a local radio station, which put out on air a call for help from people who own 4x4s in the area, urging them to come to the rescue of the couple. Help came, 4x4s arrived on the scene, the day was saved, the couple were married successfully and my hope is that they will live happily ever after..

Now in London its all about the weather, and in particular, the snow. I sometimes wonder how it is in places like Tromso, Norway or in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, or parts of Sweden or Finland and in the cities and towns of Siberia where heavy snowfall is normal. Surely in those places people aren't taking the day off every time it snows and sitting around talking about the snow all day long. I think the UK needs to get used to it and be better prepared for severe weather occurring more frequently, as the world experiences the effects of climate change, since this is what is predicted as the century progresses..

4 comments:

Akin said...

Hello Anengiyefa,

I suppose this weather thing is recent, of what I remember in the 60s and what my parents told me, we did have lots of snow in the winter months especially in the Midlands where we lived.

Trains still ran on time and the country still ran without everything grinding to a halt.

I think a psyche of namby-pambiness has crept into our system that trains even do not run on time in good weather talk less when the it gets bad.

We've had a bit of snow in Amsterdam and we are mostly below zero, so it is dreadfully slow but things still run.

Can we say this is more an Ode to this softies? :-)

Regards,

Akin

laBiscuitnapper said...

Surely in those places people aren't taking the day off every time it snows and sitting around talking about the snow all

Rather, I think they sit around laughing at how inneffectual we are (no really - I have cousins in Canada who say this so it must be true!).

I've always though most people would happily get on with things as normal if Councils prepared themselves properly for once eg, with snowploughs and adequate supplies of salt and sand. But yes, I suspect we're just going to get more weather like this in the future so we may as well start getting used to it.

Anengiyefa said...

Hi Akin and LaBiscuitsnapper,

I can't believe that even the technological marvel that are the Eurostar trains and the Channel tunnel, have not had the heavy snow of a typical northern European winter designed into them. I am astonished that just because of one spell of heavy snowfall, the train services to Paris and Brussels have been cancelled for several days. I understand that the snow-guards on the trains are not large and sturdy enough to deal with snow drifts, causing the trains to fail in the heavy snow. Then there were problems with humidity inside the Channel tunnel itself, and this is just utterly amazing.

Walking around today, most of the pavements are still thickly covered in treacherous ice. I worry about the elderly who live on their own and have to leave their homes to do their shopping, trying to get around on these very pavements. Last night, I was caught in traffic for 4 hours on a journey that normally would take about 15 mins. There are reports of people who had to abandon their cars in the middle of the road and seek shelter from nearby homes until the morning. The whole country is falling apart, just because it snowed heavily.

You would think that the authorities would know that it is likely to snow durng the winter and that arrangements would be in place to manage the consequences of the snow when it does arrive. Even the simple gritting of the minor roads, and more especially the pavements that pedestrians have to walk on, has not been achieved. Most pavements are still covered in thick ice, very slippery and thus extremely unsafe. I am dumbstruck, seeing as the British are quick to criticise others, especially the countries of the Third World.

The Scandinavians will be laughing at all the confusion that a single spell of snowfall has caused in the entire United Kingdom. I heard that 50 services out of Heathrow Airport were cancelled today alone, several days after the snowy weather began.

snow guards said...

trying to get around on these very pavements. Last night, I was caught in traffic for 4 hours on a journey that normally would take about 15 mins. There are reports of people who had to abandon their cars in the middle of the road and seek shelter from nearby homes until the morning.