*Cue sombre music and sweeping views of a desolate, snowy
“England is in the grips of a deathly cold spell; amber weather warnings have been issued for much of the North, South, East and West. The snow is causing continued disruption, with many flights delayed or diverted. People are being forced to abandon their cars after the perilous conditions caused them to slip on the treacherous roads. Thousands of schools have shut their doors and millions of people are unable to travel to work. The snow has fallen to depths of two to three centimetres, with some areas seeing five to ten centimetres in the next few days…”
This is what the news sounds like right now. Every other programme on the radio involves the Regional Director for Disruptive Weather Scenarios gravely announcing that the government made a huge mistake in not implementing those ‘snow-defences’ two years ago, “when the last attack happened”.
At this point, I’m half expecting the next broadcast to be along the lines of “the malevolent Snow-Parasites, malevolensis frozensis, are swamping much of England. Although their current level of development prevents them from reaching any higher than half a centimetre, experts believe it will not be long before they have learned to pile into drifts, which could reach anything up to twenty centimetres. Listeners are advised to stay at home and not move, as this could aggravate the situation.”
Driving to Manchester Airport on Friday night to collect my father (because, wouldn’t you know it, the plane was diverted) and it was lightly snowing. It was about 11pm, the roads were nearly empty and the snow wasn’t settling. The roads had been gritted to within an inch of their lives, warning signs where everywhere and no one was doing more than 60mph.
There were also two snow ploughs, carefully scraping the snow off the road and on to the verge. You know, the snow that was so deep it required ploughing. You know, that snow that was half an inch deep. What made it sadder was that they were collecting more grit than actual snow.
I know that England doesn’t see snow very often. We have one of the mildest temperature ranges on Earth. -3 degrees (and that’s in Celsius) is cause to stay inside and hug your radiator because the risk of hypothermia is too high to do anything else.
Of course, British mentality dictates that any deviation from the norm in terms of weather must be treated as a national disaster and a huge imposition. Complaining about the effects of the weather is only a small part of British Complaining.
My brother takes the bus into school every morning. It drops him in front of his school’s gates fifteen minutes before the start of school, and picks him up at the end of the day. It is a public bus service. However, it is the only bus that takes this exact route; the next bus, an hour later, goes into the centre of town rather than taking in any secondary schools in the area.
As I said, this bus goes past the end of our road every morning. Every morning that the weather conforms to British ideals, that is. The bus is a good measure of public weather opinion. It’s raining? No bus. It’s snowing? No bus.
Ok, that last one isn’t strictly true. The bus did turn up…on the only snow day my brother has had. It failed to turn up this morning, when most of the snow had melted.
It’s other fault is that it’s like an unsatisfying sex-partner in that it often comes early. If the weather is inclement, there is less traffic. As such, the bus speeds through all of its stops and can be up to half an hour earlier than expected. Hence why, on my drive into school (which is the opposite direction to the bus). I can often see frustrated would-be bus-users standing at their stop, watching the bus making its return journey.
Public transport isn’t the only method of moving around that we Brits can complain about. I think I am justified here in saying that my mothers car has seen one too many psycho-horror films, and is emulating the villains.
My mothers car is a Land Rover Defender. It is the most useful car ever for snow, water, mud and obnoxious lane-hogs. It is also possessed.
None of the doors (bar the drivers door) works. The front passenger door has to be shut from the outside, ie you have to roll the window down to pull the door shut. It will not latch otherwise. We dare not touch the rear drivers side door any more, after several incidents where a bungee cord had to hold the door shut until April, when the car thawed enough to deign to keep its doors shut.
The rear passenger side door locked itself for about a week (last week, in fact). Nothing anyone did would make it open, shut, or even unlock. Until my dad came along, did something with the key fob and whacked the door.
The boot has to be unlocked manually, which becomes more terrifying a task when you consider that you’re playing Russian Roulette with the boot door and the car alarm. The car alarm is not a nice, soft ‘weeo-weeo-weeo’ noise. It is a ship’s distress siren played to the background melody of someone fainting on the car horn. It is painfully loud. And painfully sensitive to switch on, while being almost impossible to switch off. I have sometimes considered taking it to a high-risk theft area and laughing at all of the would-be thieves who would require eardrum reconstructive surgery after attempting to break in.
Finally, the car is slowly implementing its plan to strand us in the middle of nowhere with no fuel. The fuel-gauge light has failed, meaning that no one can check the fuel levels in the dark and you have to hope the car is feeling nice. Secondly, my mother and I noticed a disturbing problem with the fuel gauge itself. Upon filling up the car, we noticed that, despite filling the car’s tank completely, the fuel gauge still only registered about three-quarters full. We drove on, resolving to check extra carefully next time that we were filling the car up properly. A few miles on, we noticed that the fuel gauge was reading an increase in the amount of fuel in the tank. As we continued driving, the fuel gauge was noticeably moving the wrong way along the dial.
By the time we got home, the fuel gauge was reading full.
Maybe I should congratulate the car on learning to photosynthesise so quickly.