Image by jambo13 via FlickrIt has been with great amusement over the past ten days or so that I watch the whole of the UK grind to a halt on several occasions, often due to no more than the mention of snow! The media coverage accompanying this cold snap has been nothing short of that of natural disaster. This next piece is not so much a rant for a change, more of an bizarre look at how we British find the worst in everything.
For example, to demonstrate some of the hysteria caused by some frozen water, take a look at a few of these titles from various news websites from the past week:
- Aerial video of snow chaos
- Snow-crazed stoat 'goes berserk'
- Devon praised for snow operation but lose £40 million in business
- 'Snow panic' cost region millions
- Snow and ice cause travel havoc across the UK
- Calls for calm as snow showers return
- Health and safety was key to school snow closures
- Death-trap fear as salt runs low
- Roads abandoned as death traps as salt shortage hits crisis levels
- Low temperatures prompt ice alert
- UK Government widens the search for salt
- Salt mines stretched to the limit as council stocks start to run low
- Johnson praises 'heroic' transport efforts after snow
- 'Buckling' Britain warned: be ready for more snow
However, a particularly good piece of sport that I do thank the media for showing us is that of people delayed/stranded at airports after snowfall. The scenario will often go as follows;
Red eyed, insomniac who has slept on their duffel coat and rucksack is interviewed by keen local journalist at some backwater local airport. You know the kind that has the words "International" after its name (Southampton, Leeds-Bradford, Coventry airports etc), but only fly routes to Riga/Malaga/Kos during the summer months. I digress. The sleep deprived individual will then recount a tale of horror, no customer service, 36 hours sleeping in the aisles of Tie Rack only to be told that their flight to Aarhus has been cancelled. They will then proceed to say how their children have been affected and how they will never fly Ryanair again. "Fuck the dense fog, inches of snow and black ice on the taxiway, I'm being inconvenienced! I'm outraged!"
I know I am not the only one who thinks they should designate an aeroplane in these situations, for those who think it is safe to attempt a take off in less than desirable conditions, let them board, and see how it goes. Their risk. If it were to crash, then we would be rid of some of the most profound whiners this island has. Myself included perhaps! Seriously though, who travels to an airport when it is snowing and expects there to be no impact upon their journey? Furthermore, who travels to a field in the East Midlands to their "International Airport" and are surprised that their snow plough is a man with a shovel and a hair-dryer peddling up and down the runway? I do admire the clutching at straws and finger pointing that goes on, because as we all know, the airlines do control the weather.
Which brings me to a fine piece of observation by a Swedish journalist who writes for the Independent here. She cannot fathom our un-preparedness for the snow which falls every year, in varying quantities, our surprise at it happening, and the horror stories we recount to each other of our attempts to travel around conducting our day to day business. Whilst I do recommend you read the quite brief article in full a few highlights include;
"After listening to colleagues compare their commuter journeys like battle-scarred veterans, all I could think was "It's only water"."And these are things that I think we should all reflect upon! Some snow falls, and London must have been the only place in the world that would shut its UNDERGROUND TUBE system. I almost smothered myself under the duvet and drowned in my hot cup of tea when I heard that news report.
"we [Swedish] don't wear heels, trainers or leather jackets if the streets are covered with snow and the temperature has dropped below zero."
"All cars in Sweden have an ice scraper in the glove compartment – it beats trying to use your bank card and ending up both cold and cashless for the day."
"I remember fondly riding my bike to school in a foot or two of snow as it was the only time of the year I could make impressive skids, or building igloos in the big piles of snow created by the snowploughs."
"It's worrying that my landline and mobile phone are not working properly, and that emergency services are severely limited and hospitals are cancelling operations due to the snow. But, what worries me most is that, if it gets any worse, I'll be stuck on this island."
It is truly bonkers, and you can see why it amuses but makes no sense to an outsider from a country where they get genuine sustained snow, not this fly by night stuff that frankly even Rwanda could probably deal with better.
For fear of making this personal I must make reference to my Uncle's street in Berlin, Germany. It is on the outskirts on the old east side of the city, fairly rural - a very small town feel. For 3 months of the year the road is frozen over. Yet everyone goes to work, gets on with life, gets a bit chilly but nobody dies. In fact it is so much a non issue, as I'm from the UK I'm probably the only one who remarks to them that it must be so much hassle to drive etc. Naturally I get bemused looks from my German aunt and a shrug from my English Uncle who has become accustomed to snow and ice in his street and the British way of not being able to deal with its presence.
So, I am off to take the advice of seemingly every news agency in the UK and "brace" myself for another "major snowstorm". If I lived in a house made of straw, with no central heating, with no roof and no tea making facilities I might just be concerned. Fortunately I have a fully functioning kettle, a warm bed and a mute button on the television so that I can no longer be conned into thinking the world is ending. Because when I look outside, walk with my fiancée and drive around it all looks rather nice.
So to cheer up all of you miserable buggers, some funny snow themed pictures with an over-riding and wholly unintentional animal theme:
And finally, Flight 105 from Doncaster International Airport makes an unscheduled stop en route to Marbella. Passengers said to be outraged by the delay: