In a text conversation about the snow and its effects on our public transport system, a friend said that “titflasher should have a rant” about it. I laughed, mainly because it appears that I have a growing reputation for rantiness and also because my moniker is fast becoming a bit more of a giggle than I first thought. Someone else said to me – isn’t that false advertising on the net? When exactly are we going to see anything resembling a tit?
So here it is … a weather-appropriate pic
Source – http://www.Public-domain-image.com
Seriously though, I love snow. My first encounter with it was on the top of the Outeniqua mountains in the Cape, South Africa. Our garden nestled in the foot of part of the range and at night, we would sit outside and watch the sun go down over the peaks. Cape weather is notoriously changeable – not for nothing is it referred to as “four seasons in one day”. Often it was warm enough to sit outside and watch the sun reflecting off the snow at the top of the mountains and on one particular winter’s day, Dad drove us up the rather perilous mountain path to go and play in it. I, always happy to leap without looking, jumped out of the car, gathered a whole lot of snow in my hands and yelped at the sheer iciness of it.
That didn’t stop me making a snowball but immediately after launching it, my hands went into my armpits and jumping up and down, with the air and my nose turning blue, I attempted to coax some feeling back into my hands and feet.
My next encounter was my second winter in the UK. I arrived just after Christmas and there was no snow at all but the following year we had a record showing. I lay down in the road, made snow angels, threw snowballs indoors and generally had a childish time, this time with appropriate foot and hand wear!
I love the smell of it, the feel of when a gentle breeze wafts the coldness across my face, the way it deadens sound and makes dirty streets look pristine. I enjoy tramping in it, the fun of making things out of it, the way life changes immediately it falls, less cars, more people helping each other out and enjoying it together. It brings us together in a way that the sun does not. I have spent hours watching the sun go down on the latest snow fall we had – I am fascinated by the way sunsets and snow give everything a blue tinge, until true dark, when it changes into orange and snow at night seems lit with a red flame. I was disappointed that my borrowed camera was not able to pick this spectrum up.
However, snow does not mean fun and frolics for everyone. In the UK we regularly see snow and in recent years, the South has had an increasing amount of it. We seem incapable of running any sorts of services, despite in this case, ample warning of it. Do not get me wrong – I know that our trains are not designed for poor weather and I know that we only have a certain amount of grit and that grit stops working around -10o C. However, the annoying thing about the train and bus services in particular is the ongoing and mind-boggling lack of information.
Last winter, I attempted to get from my station to work. Day One was impossible, no trains. Two foot of snow had fallen, so I could buy into that. Day Two, the local train service announced on their website that trains were running, albeit with a reduced timetable. Excellent! Off I went, the tracks were clear and I stood on a platform in freezing conditions for 90 minutes whilst station announcers announced trains that didn’t come, cancelled trains that might have existed and changed us from platform to platform.
Eventually, when I was frozen solid, I went and stood in a queue for more information. Another 30 minutes later, I was directed to a neighbourhood station, 25 minutes away by car. No buses were running so I called my ex-boyfriend who worked in a hospital near the station to which I was redirected. Luckily, I caught him before he set off to work. We dug the car out of the snow and drove very carefully until we got to the station and he went on to work. I walked gingerly down the lane to the station and was amazed to see the tracks completely covered in snow. Two engineers happened to be walking up so I asked them. “Oh no loves, you’ve been given the wrong info, y’see all that snow? Now if we run trains over that, the electricity will arc and set the train on fire. No trains have been near this station for two days and it will take another two days to clear all that!”.
Calling back into work, which was a full two hours journey away, I heard that some of my team had made it in, others not. Very frustrated, but realising that there was no way I was going to get into work – it was nearly lunchtime by this stage – I tried to get a cab home. The local cabs were not going out of the immediate area. Stranded on a patch of snow in the middle of nowhere, thanks to the brilliant advice of the rail staff, I was livid. I did eventually get home (ex-boyfriend very kindly collected me, took me back to the hospital and then home from there later on).
Now, this was nearly two years ago and the latest snowfalls have not been as bad. So, why on earth was this experience not a one-off? I have heard and read horror stories of people stuck on trains overnight, having to walk down tracks, not being able to get into work and the same refrain over and over – communication was poor, we were misinformed, they told me to go to a station where there were no trains.
The main road near to me should have been gritted and actually appeared to be on day 2, on top of the snow and ice which was as useful as a chocolate teapot. Day 1, very few people were brave enough to travel down it. Buses did not run. My road was not gritted at all and we still have ice all over it, although the snow has mostly melted. Whilst it was snowing, pavements were navigable but even I nearly took a tumble this afternoon, as it has compacted into ice. People have been out, working together to get the road and pavement into a passable state and one side of the road can now be walked on.
Despite two weeks’ advance notice of the snow, our local supermarket ran out of food. I didn’t hear about anyone panic buying locally so I am pretty sure this was not down to a last minute rush, but there was no milk, no bread, no greens or fruit. Our small shops did much better.
I asked a local shopkeeper (who had all of these) why this was so. He looked at me as if I was a simpleton and in single-syllable words, explained carefully that he heard the weather forecast, realised that travelling to the cash & carry might not be an option for a few days, so bought double of his most quickly moving stock. I said to him, ah, but Tesco’s haven’t. He took a breath and said “my customers mean more to me than Tesco’s customers do to them, clearly”. So what a large branded supermarket could not do, an ordinary shopkeeper managed by just a little bit of planning. My local shopkeeper now thinks I’m the village idiot …
Our winters in the UK are predicted to become colder and more snowy. The South in particular is undergoing climate change at a rapid rate, some of which has been noticeable in the relatively short span of years I have been living here. Unless the central and local governments and transport companies pull their fingers out of their uh … ears and start thinking properly about this, we could end up being frozen in more ways than one!