In our gardenTwelfth Night, 6th January, marks the Feast of the Epiphany. The Christian church celebrates the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem who had followed the bright star in the east to bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby in the manger.
It is thought unlucky to leave decorations in place after the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Accordingly, though I am not superstitious, I always ensure that all seasonal ornaments are removed and put away. ('Putting away' means that the components are placed in a box and left on the landing beneath the loft, occasionally usually for an entire year!) By the time January 6th dawns I am more than a little tired of seeing bright cards, decorated greenery, coloured lights and angel chimes and simply want to bring some order normality back into our lives. 'Order' is entirely the wrong noun to use in connection with us!
It is ironic that as we reach the end of the festive season and take one last look at cards depicting robins in wintery scenes and snowmen sporting woolly scarves and hats in deep snow which we did not experience here in the South that now snow is falling! It started yesterday around 6:00 pm and continued throughout the night. It has carried on today and the sky still looks full of it. Schools across our county and neighbouring counties have not opened and the roads are strangely quiet apart from children relishing an extra holiday and discovering how deep the snow fall is. It is approaching 30 centimetres (12 inches or 1 foot)
Now it may seem strange that everything grinds to a halt when bad weather strikes. It is not entirely unheard of for snow to fall in winter, particularly in the northerly parts of these islands. However, the roads cannot be salted if stocks are not readily available. There are only three salt 'mines' in the country so replenishing supplies can involve drivers travelling for several hours to their nearest depot to fill their gritting trucks. Once there they face a wait of six hours or so as the queue is long and then they make a return journey of many more hours. Meanwhile council spokesmen speak in interviews of being 'let down' by their suppliers though they acknowledge that the contractors are doing their best to satisfy everyone's requirements. Why are there only three salt dumps? It seems that contractors and local councils could not agree a price for providing more storage sites which begs the question of what our local councils actually do for their money. No doubt many of our councillors are worthy souls, working hard for the good of the community. The leader of our council earns is paid approximately the same amount as President Barack Obama. Mr Obama represents or answers to over 303 million people from widely differing locations and with complex and sometimes seemingly insurmountable problems and requirements. Our local council serves around 160,000 people in a largely affluent area where employment is high and poverty and crime, though present, very low. Local councils are not responsible for supplying gas, electricity, water or sewage. The services they administer include police, fire, educational institutes, refuse collection, social housing, parks and open spaces and libraries.
Furthermore, 20% of the local council taxes we are obliged to pay go into the pension fund for these civil servants. The councillors may choose to retire on full index-linked pension at the age of 50, ten to fifteen years before the normal retirement age. So, I ponder again what these folks do. I just looked on the website and there is no contact email for 'snow clearance on roads' – that figures!
Happy New Year!
There's a pond under there! Last night Gus practised a little ice-skating out there. I just hope our fish are surviving but the pond has plenty of deep water for them to swim in and there are air holes - I think!