Has anyone heard about the snowstorm in Britain? No? Okay, let me tell you about it.
Actually, I was going to give it a miss, especially as I had already mentioned it in my Anglotopia column, but as this is the biggest atmospheric anomaly to hit the UK in ten years, I thought I’d continue exploring the angle I broached there, namely the fact that Britain was caught, once again, with its pants down.
Now, I have often criticized my adopted country for having the national equivalent of a nervous breakdown at the sight of falling leaves, seizures when there’s a heavy frost and fainting from heatstroke if the temperature hits 85 degrees. But this time, I’m letting them off the hook; yes, the country crumbled into chaos, but there wasn’t much anyone could have done about it.
This wasn’t a case of the ant storing up provisions while the grasshopper idled about selling peerages and engaging in illegal wars, this was a case of a herd of Welsh Mountain sheep accidentally roaming into a tea shop; it’s not something you can foretell or prepare for.
Sure, they knew it was coming a few days ago (the snow, not the sheep), but they didn’t know about it last October. And even if they did, what were they supposed to do? Cover the M25 with a tarp? Wrap the rail lines in thermal blankets? Mandate a “Snow, Newton's Laws of Motion and how they pertain to you” test, and force anyone who failed it to exchange their driving license for a pair of Government issued Wellington boots?
No, the only thing you can do in a situation like this is hunker down and take a snow day, which is what a lot of us did. (What? You went to work? Sucks being you, eh?) Why would anyone believe this nation could cope with something like this when no one even owns a snow shovel and you can’t buy all-season radials even if you knew what they were? Driving in snow is a specialist skill honed over time, not something you have a crack at every decade or so. That’s like being handed the controls of an Airbus-330 and being told, “You did an hour in a simulator ten years ago, so I expect you remember how all this works.”
When a snowstorm hits Georgia, no one berates them for not having the foresight to order 17 million plows from Minnesota, or ship in 6 million cubic tons of road salt from Wisconsin. No, we just watch the film clips on the evening news showing what happens when 8 million people who have never seen snow before take to the highways in a white-out; it’s great entertainment.
And it was great fun watching the weather news here, though there weren’t as many spectacular accidents. The British roads, being meandering, narrow and crowded, don’t favor imbeciles in pick-up trucks who believe 4-wheel drive means “invincible” and, instead, tend to slowly, almost sedately, grind to a complete standstill. So the news was practically devoid of interesting traffic footage, but there was no shortage of local reporters out and about filming a nation of normally staid individuals who seem to go off their nut at the sight of snow.
So Britain is coping as well as can be expected for a semi-tropical country (hey, compared to where I come from it is) in the grips of an extraordinary weather pattern. And extraordinary it is; generally, if it snows at all, it sprinkles about half an inch that melts by noon. This time, it began snowing on Sunday. It is now Thursday and, in many locations, it is still snowing.
For me, unfortunately, the snow has stopped. My town received only a few inches but Surrey, where I am bussing to this week, got over a foot (hence my snow days). We’re all done digging out now and the pristine snow that held so many Britons in thrall on Monday now lies in heaps by the roadsides, turning into gray slush.
It was all very exciting while it lasted, but what we need now is a return to normal weather, with temperatures in the 40s and the snow just a memory, so we can get back to the business at hand, namely slagging off Britain for not being able to cope with frost or falling leaves.
Addendum: 7 February 2009
There is a "tag" going around BlogWorld that goes like this: Go to your photos folders, take the fourth photo from the fourth folder, post it and explain it. Then tag four others to do the same.
I'm a curmudgeon, and I don't do tags or memes but I did have a look and what I found was so appropriate, I had to post it.
This photo was taken exactly 9 years ago - 5 February 2000. It is just a typical Upstate New York morning after yet another snowstorm. It was taken at 10:46 AM, so this must have been a Saturday. At least I didn't have to dig out and drive to work that day.