Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snow, bloody snow...

So far this blog has consisted of longwinded accounts of the cars I have owned and crashed interspersed with whatever irrelevancy has preoccupied me at any given time, so this entry will be an exception. We are going through hell in this country, as will already be known by British readers and readers with an unusually keen interest in British weather (I think there’s a retired tailor in Panama who qualifies and who, by virtue of having once had a grandmother from Belper in Derbyshire, feels a certain bond with Britain and all things British. He is the president of the Panama/Derbyshire Friendship Society, although, as far as I know, also its only member). It is an icy hell, a snowy hell. It is, of course, as nothing compared to the slightly bad weather experienced each year in Minnesota and the other northern states of America, but this is Britain, where we are more accustomed to week-long for than snow, so for us it is hell.
On the bright side, it has been the kind of winter which makes for media heaven. Cliches have been taken out, dusted down and proudly used which have been all but forgotten for many a year. One group of New Year revellers were snowed in in a pub in the Peak District and couldn't leave for four days; a pensioner couple have frozen to death in their bungalow despite several neighbours alerting the police and social services that they needed help; the public has been sternly informed that any attempt at clearing snow and ice from pavements in front of their homes is illegal and they face a fine of up to £5,000 or up to two years in prison for doing so; in Portsmouth — this kind of thing usually takes place in Portsmouth — a neighbours put aside their petty differences and, organised by a resident wing-commander, got together and cleared their street of snow in under an hour. A satellite photograph of Britain was published a few dayas ago showing the country completely covered in snow. Or almost completely, because for me, the irony is that except for a brief flurry of snow last Wednesday, which immediately turned to slush and then ice in the subsequent sub-zero temperature, my neck of the woods has stoutly remained snow-free for the past week. Worse, five days ago, the ice melted and our streets have been bone-dry.

A scene, untypical of West London and not seen for many years, in which the streets are obviously not in the slightest bit bone-dry.

Everyone is, quite naturally, remarkably and, it has be to said in view of my situation, remorselessly cheerful. I, unfortunately, was unable to get home because St Breward, which lies on the edge of Bodmin Moor and is approached by hills on three sides (the moor being the fourth) was cut off. Sounds rather dramatic, I know, but it was true that no vehicle could get through to the village until a few days ago, so icy were the roads. Naturally, it was heaven for Elsie and Wesley, who tell me they have built a snowman and been sliding down a short slope we have in the back garden, but it meant that I was unable to go home last week and have been hunkered down here in London. Ironically, I might well have been able to travel the first 255 miles home reasonably easily, although in some discomfort, but once I got near home, I would have been stuck and would have risked becoming yet another media statistic.
That was all going to change today, Wednesday, which is my going home day. I have been keeping an eye on the various weather websites and they all promised that temperatures would haul themselves from their sub-zero comfort zone and start behaving themselves: around 4c today here in London and St Breward and 2c in Exeter (relevant because I shall have to take the train to Exeter then pick up my car to drive that last 64 miles home), rising to 5/8c by the end of the week. And that would mean a thaw (with, naturally widespread flooding and more misery to keep the media happy) and far easier travelling conditions. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the bloody weathermen were wrong. I woke up this morning to find the streets here in West London covered by almost a foot of snow, traffic crawling as only traffic knows how to crawl, and anguished reports from the West Country of motorists trapped in their cars for up to eight hours. I my homecoming might well be postponed by a day, and if it would have to be more than a day, it would again make more sense to stay in London. Altogether now: fuck, fuck, fuck.

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