Let it snow!

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!


About titflasher

Writer, blogger, animal activist, people activist, dream-catcher maker, mommy to 9 cats and a roving band of foxes ... Blog name comes from my father's suggestion for the title of my autobiography ... after my mother's and my awful habit of flashing whenever the security police took our photo in the dark old days of apartheid South Africa. I love nature, including creepy crawlies and people, find life fascinating and frustrating and have two terrible weaknesses - nictotine and animals in distress ... can't abide the latter situation and can't give up the former. I'm Pagan but not anti-Christian, funny but quite serious, light-hearted but can be annoying. I am warm-hearted until someone p*sses on me too much, then I get soggy and even. Feel free to link me but all the words on these pages is copyrighted, so copy it and take the credit and I will find you and slap you upside the head, hard. The blog is probably best read via category as there is loads on here already, and I just got started :-)
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9 Responses to Let it snow!

  1. warriet says:

    Yes, hard to disagree with anything (one day perhaps). The South East in general and London in particular seem to be rubbish at any kind of weather disruption to its fragile infrastructure. Not just weather, the PIRA used to be quite good at bringing the place to a standstill. Tesco offers the paradigm of JIT supply chains but as a company it is dependent on its suppliers of fresh food. Also very vulnerable to road network failure, who knows where in the world the cows that supply your milk are? When the truckers were doing the fuel protest some years ago, the country was getting very close to martial law as the supply chains were facing total failure so the government had to back down before the food riots started. I digress: non- or mis-communication is wholly avoidable given the range and reach of the available technologies. Something else that is revealed is the collective social isolation, especially in the large cities. How many of the millions in London live alone or not as part of any residential community? My local shop keeper looks after his regulars and does his best to only buy from suppliers who loo0k after him and other small stores. why not do a Freedom of Information request to ask what contingency plans will be in place to deal with the increasingly dramatic (by sheltered isle standards) weather events that have already started happening and are expected to increase or rather the range of weathers will increase. The climate change deniers will of course witter on but someone needs to be grown-up and sensible by planning for what might happen. Other countries seem to manage to get on with dealing with show & ice, perhaps we could seek advice from Germany? Of course the UK’s situation is greatly exacerbated by the media coverage e.g. the raucous and inaccurate coverage of last week’s snow would have had people believing that the whole country had stopped, that nothing was working anywhere.

  2. titflasher says:

    David – one day we will find grounds to disagree, I am sure :-). Good idea re the freedom of information act request. I just wonder where our collective common sense has gone? Surely a bit of the old foresight and planning will make this sort of situation a whole lot easier? And yes, getting advice from countries who manage it might help! Media coverage is, as always, rather over the top but certainly from the experiences of friends in the South, not far from the truth. And, as you point out, communication should be the easiest thing of all, given the techonology available. One would think that our rail and bus services ran without the benefit of intranets, the internet and the media … !

    • David says:

      I have noticed that the bus drivers on the Frome-Wells will use their personal mobiles to talk to each other and work out wtf is going on and then tell their passengers why they are being late or following an unexpected route with the result that people are given enough information to use their own phones to rearrange as necessary. Funnily enough there’s a lot less moaning…

      • titflasher says:

        It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? That’s what I mean about using common sense and the technology available … glad they seem to have got it right in your corner of the UK! Btw – is that the bus route that leads to Glasto? I am sure I have been through Frome on my way there …

  3. titflasher says:

    PS I missed a bit re social isolation – yes this is a real issue. Both my neighbour and I did our best to make sure our most vulnerable neighbour was okay. Needless to say, he was absolutely fine, being of the particular generation which went through WW2 and survived. But not everyone makes the effort, sadly. I am lucky to live in an area where the threads of community still exist and we look after each other as best we can, but I am aware that many people are isolated and alone and the winter exacerbates this 😦

    • David says:

      answer to PS glad to read that your vulnerable neighbour OK. Yes the WWII lot are made of stern stuff and the state they voted for in the 1945 election is looking after them – my mother was jolly pleased to get her 400 GBP winter fuel allowance because it does just what it say as on the the tin so she has no worries about how much electricity she uses to stay warm. The greatest concern of the old people round here is that they might fall and break something – I keep telling Chris & Denys downstairs to call me if they need anything from the shop – freezing fog hereabouts today and I would hate for either of them to fall. Fortunately they are both sensible and don’t let their pride put them at risk. The old adage about not letting pride come before a fall must surely have been coined for just such a scenario. Glad you live somewhere a community still exists – the Thatcherite “no such thing as society” ethos has done enormous social harm in that the pursuit of Mammon has monetarised and supplanted intrinsic human values, wonder if the ambulance chasers will redouble their no fee no win advertising? After all somebody must be suable for the unexpected wintery weather? Perhaps we should start a class action against the USA and their energy promiscuity? A bas le blame culture!

      • David says:

        more PS: you may well have come via Frome; although it’s called the Glastonbury festival the nearest town is Shepton Mallet (which does not have quite the same marketing allure – locals refer to the event as Pilton or Worthy Farm)

      • titflasher says:

        I have not been to the festival although I have spent some considerable time in Glasto itself. Yes, the bus runs from just outside Bristol Temple Meads stations and then wanders through the loveliest little towns before stopping outside the Glastonbury Cathedral. Apart from one manic ride with a cab driver who had severe anger management issues, all my journeys to Glasto have been by bus!

      • titflasher says:

        I LOL’ed – yes, although as the US seems to have much more litigation experience than us, I suggest that we would probably lose :-))

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