Snow joke

I love my country, and am proud to be British, but sometimes I despair.

Weather is a fairly common occurrence here on this lovely group of islands. In fact, it is such an important part of our lives that I would have thought it was our most common topic of conversation, even if we tend to grumble about it in all its variations. Come rain or shine, come gale or snow, sleet or hail, drizzle or heatwave, the British can be counted on to complain. It will be too hot, too cold, too damp, too dry, too windy or too calm. And in extreme circumstances, such as the appearance of frozen water from the sky, we simply retreat into our shells and hide until it’s over.

Today, it seems that snow brought the country to a standstill. Or at least it brought London to a standstill and this had a knock-on effect across much of the nation, partly because it seems all the trains had been sleeping in London overnight and were therefore not available to transport anyone to their chosen destinations. In my part of Kent, the snow made a vague attempt at doing its job, but mostly looked pretty and melted. It would be very generous indeed to suggest that we had an inch of it. Further west, roads were harder to travel on due to the lack of gritters. Quite why gritting had not happened, I don’t know. Snow on Sunday and Monday was forecast before the weekend, so there was plenty of warning. To be fair, the major roads around here seemed to be fine, but reports from colleagues and friends suggest that this was not true everywhere.

The Library of Doom held out longer than many places. Plenty of High Street shops remained closed today, and most of the rest of Kent’s institutions of higher education either never opened or shut up shop at lunchtime. We sent home those people who were having public transport difficulties, then continued providing our usual librarianic services until 6 o’clock, when we put the books to bed and turned out the lights.

Reports suggest that other areas were hit harder by snowstorms, but it is clear that the levels of snow were and are nothing compared to snowfall in places such as Russia, Canada and Scandinavia, where life seems to continue happily during even the bleakest winter. Here, however, our winters are less harsh than they once were, but they seem to affect us in ways they never did before. Suddenly, many places of work and education are closed, public transport throws in the towel and the radio is warning us of impending doom. Is it the wrong sort of snow, or is the country just a bit pathetic? I suspect more of the latter, but tinged with a lack of preparation, an amazing ability to be taken by surprise by something we all knew was coming. One suspects that the rest of the world (and probably other parts of the United Kingdom as well) is sniggering at us behind their hands. If so, I really don’t blame them.

  1. I was one of the happy throng who headed for home at 1pm. My office was one degree above the statutory minimum and I had to wear gloves, hat and wrap my coat round my legs to be able to do any work!! Tomorrow I’m taking in a blanket!!

  2. Oh, dont get me started.

    Monday: SE trains website down. Queue for National Rail Enquiries “22 minutes”. Eltham station staff non-existent (although the staff of both the newsagents and the coffee kiosk in the foyer had made it). Display screen “Due to the severe weather conditions, we are unable to bring you any information about train services”. Well, thanks.

    Tuesday: Eltham station still closed. Lewisham station now closed. Trains running on the Sidcup line, apparently. Bus to Mottingham. Train approaches after only two minutes’ wait. Announcement: “This train is not in use and will not be stopping here”. Train then stops at station. No information on display screen, staff unable to help. Dot matrix info board on train blank. No announcement from driver as to destination. Satisfy myself that destination will be in Central London somewhere. Train takes 90 minutes to arrive at London Bridge “where this train will now terminate”.

    Arrive at work to find email from Department Manager: “All staff who did not attend work on Monday must take the day as annual leave”. Colleagues spitting feathers. Swift telephone call to HR reveals that Department Manager is acting outside her authority and she is forced to make public retraction of email and grovelling apology.

    4pm – SE trains website says Bexleyheath line now open. Get to London Bridge to find complete chaos with no trains going anywhere, let alone Eltham. Display posters say “Ask staff for current details”. All staff saying “We dont know anything”. Eventually decide to play sardines on the bus. Arrive home two hours later.

    Read paper on train: Peter Hendy (TfL Transport Commissioner) crowing about how well TfL did. No buses yesterday apparently because depots are all on minor roads which are the responsibility of local council to grit, not TfLs.

    Letter page: “I made it into work yesterday because I am a professional [in capital letters]” Signed Josh from Hampstead.

    i TOLD you not to get me started.

  3. Well, you can only get to work if the trains or other form of public transport are going where you need them to go! I would quite like to have words with “Josh from Hampstead”! Grr.

    I think we just don’t prepare well enough because, like Boris (I think it was) said, we don’t experience this kind of weather often enough for the powers that be to justify the cost of putting in the infrastructure to deal with it. However, I would have thought we might save money in the long term by enabling the country to carry on through the bad weather rather than it grinding to a halt and losing the economy money, not that I really know anything about such things.

    Personally, I like the idea of retreating into my shell and hiding until it’s all over, as long as I can peak out at the pretty snowscapes every now and then.

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