“[…] for Northerners snow is something to skive for and go sledging in while for Southerners it is a ‘national emergency’.”*
*Slightly misquoted from the book “Pies and Prejudice.” By Stuart Maconie
The first dump of proper snow each year is a very easy time to be a UK news editor. The story has already written itself many times over the preceding years; “Britain Woefully Unprepared for Cold Snap” is the headline followed by pages of:
- outrage at lack of salt or gritters;
- closed schools;
- musings that Switzerland or wherever copes so much better with so much worse;
- forecasts of the devastating economic damage that the nation will endure because thousands like ‘Mrs Jones from Guildford’ could not get to their job as a receptionist at the dentists or whatever.
- Etc. etc. –
Given this current freak cold-snap is of a severity encountered this early once every couple of decades the newsmen can wallow in a dreamland of subtle variations on the above being spawned from copy-paste then minor edit of articles from last time around. It’s a similar news phenomenon to the annual “GCSE Results at Record Level – Accusations of Dumbing-Down” circus. I’m convinced most news editors book their holidays for the third week of August and leave that one pre-written on the deputy’s desk before they set off.
Anyway, I tend to be a bit more philosophical about snow in the UK. When people predictably lament our lack of preparation I wonder – what do they really want? Do they really wish us to spend an equivalent percentage of GDP on snow preparation that the Canadians or the Swiss do to cope with the few days a year we get hit? If so, which services are cut or which tax do we raise to fund this elite snow-disaster-management hit-squad?
And the people who are moaning loudest – can I just check that they have taken personal responsibility for shovelling their own drive and steps? And heaven forbid, while they were at it – have they actually thought of gritting their own street immediately beyond the boundary of their dropped kerbs or are they just sitting on their backsides moaning that big government only does the main roads?
Actually, on that last point I will join the curmudgeons and moan about the vanishing yellow or green grit boxes that used to be on every street so we could help ourselves. These have vanished over recent years almost in direct proportion to the increasing prevalence of the view that for every ‘problem’ there is a government solution, as drilled into us by New Labour.
That aside, I’m going walk my daughter to the childminder then work-from-home today. I can’t see the point in putting myself or anyone else at risk by setting off to the office. My wife, who is a hospital doctor, doesn’t have the luxury of that choice – so she used healthy common sense and set off very early. Once out of our side-street the roads were clear and she got to work quicker than normal thanks to gritted roads and lighter traffic. All power to our supposedly ‘unable-to-cope-with-the-snow’ council for that one.
For everyone who is wound up I suggest you copy the kids enjoying their day off school and treat snow a bit like other annual inconveniences such as flu and food poisoning. The difference is that if you get out on your sledge, build snowmen and have snowball fights then this ‘inconvenience’ can be enjoyed. In a word Britain, pun fully intended: Chill!
This article was first written in January 2010 and I will shamelessly republish it at first snow dump every year.