Tuesday 22 January 2013

Be Prepared!

Be Prepared!

Except in the far reaches of the British Isles, snow is not a common sight in winter and *if it lasts more than two weeks it’s cause for comment by national media. When snow is forecast a kind of war-time comradeship emerges and a siege mentality sets in as people flock to the shops to stock up on essentials. Everyone gets very excited when it falls and settles. Everything grinds to a halt – schools are closed, electricity supplies are cut, public transport is reduced or abandoned altogether and there are hourly warnings on radio and television not to go out  ‘unless your journey is really necessary.’
This is on Wildmoor Heath. There are many gates separating different areas. Cattle graze in some paddocks. On Sunday we reached a gate with a notice informing us that cattle were grazing in the paddock and dogs should be kept on leads. Barry asked a woman coming through the gate if there were any cattle in there. 'No,' she replied, 'I haven't seen any cattle up here for years.' We went confidently through and lo and behold there were several Charolais cows contentedly munching whatever cows munch. We're quite sure our informant wasn't blind! The dogs were well behaved and took no notice of the cows.
Intrepid reporters are sent to the four corners of the country – at least those that are experiencing the unusual phenomenon. They stand on windswept bridges or in the middle of roads telling their open-mouthed public how extraordinary, almost unprecedented, is the sight before them. Yes, travelling is really difficult when snow falls – could it be anything to do with the hordes of cameramen and journalists clogging up the roads telling the nation how it’s advisable to remain indoors?
Well-trodden and very wet in places . . .
Usually, pedestrians are only seen on the streets when taking their children to and from school and often simply from their cars to the school gates but when snow appears the normally deserted roads are filled with parents pulling children on sledges and families building snowmen and igloos. We even see people on skis! It’s funny how they cannot travel to work or school but can still summon the courage and strength to go out and play in the snow.

The unusual influx of people onto the streets is always rather worrying because some drivers, whose journeys are really necessary, are still attempting to navigate their cautious way across unfamiliar terrain. Being unversed in car handling in adverse conditions they are inclined to skid and slide and swerve unnervingly close to small people engaged in snowy pursuits. Sometimes young hotheads take the opportunity to practise handbrake turns along residential streets. Should such morons ever be allowed on the public highway, regardless of weather conditions?

Three years ago when we had a heavy fall of snow our ‘dog car’ got stuck (yes, our journey was really necessary – large dogs unexercised for any length of time are more perilous to health even than thick snow) and walking on frozen snow, even with pacer poles, was difficult so we decided that in future we would be fully prepared. Accordingly, Barry bought a snow shovel, snow socks for the car and chains for our walking boots. Naturally, the next two winters brought very little snow and absolutely no occasion to use our special equipment.

This year, when around 5”/12½ cms of snow fell on Saturday, the time was ripe to try out our winter paraphernalia. The snow shovel was put to good use and the drive has remained snow-free and safe to walk on (though more snow is forecast overnight – indeed has just started falling!)

The most revelatory things were the Yaktrax. They were difficult to attach to our boots but they make walking so much easier and safer. They are not good indoors on bare wooden floors – in fact, they’re probably quite hazardous unless you fancy practising ice-skating. The only things we haven’t yet tried are the snow socks. Maybe they will come in handy in another three years J (I may live to regret that flippant remark!)

Although I mock and despair over the parlous state of our transport system and the way we just cannot cope with a relatively small amount of snow, I do like to see that fresh, bright white, the most humble objects transformed into things of unutterable beauty, the trees supporting their crystalline burdens in a clear blue sky. I love the smell of the air, the feeling as it slices into my lungs, the crunch of the snow beneath my feet, the sight of my dogs frolicking in delirious delight. I relish looking out from my warm sitting room to an alien landscape and seeing the birds - and a hungry squirrel - feasting on fat cakes and peanuts and seeds. For me, snow is a rare delight and I embrace it – so long as my journey isn’t really necessary – apart from for the dogs, that is. 
*Thank you to all who pointed out my error. What I intended to say and should have made clear is that snow that lasts more than two weeks takes on the significance of an historical event, causing excited reporters and presenters to delve into the record books to identify whether *this* snowfall has exceeded all others in terms of depth and disruption. Already, we are told that serious floods will follow the thaw - the most serious ever? We shall see. I do sympathise with those most severely affected. It's no cause for levity, I know. 


  1. I don't thing a couple of weeks is what the media needs to focus on the snow-more like a couple of days-or even when it is threatened! I would like to know how much news time other countries give to snow-well weather in general. I do love snow though, for its beauty. Public transport has been fine round here so my school is very much open!

  2. Ha, I had not realized that snow was so rare there. Not rare here, but this winter so far there has been a lack, which is fine with me....but when it comes life goes on, plows work, salt trucks salt, people own snow blowers & shovels & boots. It is very rare that they close schools. They do so if it is deemed it is dangerous for school busses. (However, at the moment we are experiencing awful cold. - 2 F in the daytime (with a lower wind chill). It really PAINS the dogs to go outside! (And me too.)

  3. Even in Canada, when the first snowfall comes many drivers go too fast and can't stop at lights and stop signs. I don't drive for the first few days. I've had too many close calls. Later on, everyone is driving a lot safer.

    I know that when it snows here you must have winter tires or your car will swerve all over the place. That is probably why your buses don't run etc. Tires are extremely important.

    Love your photos, and it is funny that woman never saw cows there for years!

  4. Enjoy the snow! Yaktrax sound brilliant. None at all down here in the SW. I may live to regret that flippant remark too.

    Hope family issues soon resolve. We have similar problems with my own mother. Jx

  5. It always amazes me that in the midwest when they close schools for snow, the news camera crews cover the children sledding.Enjoy that winter weather.

  6. I feel cold just looking at those pictures....


  7. The media were on to it this time in a couple of days or less! I still wonder at the chaos an inch or so can bring, but congratulations on a write that would do any journal proud. It is a great read, which I appreciated very much.

  8. I never knew you didn't have snow. Learn something new every day.

    I grew up in the snow, and when we moved south, there really isn't any, but even if it's just a dusting, people go crazy. They close schools, downtown, transit, it's nuts. You'd think it was a blizzard of epic proportions.

  9. Hi Janice .. I'm sure we were more organised when I was younger .. we tend to take things for granted now.

    I'm just glad I don't have to make that decision ... do I go or do I stay - I just don't go ... and have no animals to walk ...

    It was snowbound in Brighton from accidents and football last night! - but over here we have rain ... 20 miles east ...

    But more snow is threatened and I'm glad I'm not in the west country or Wales right now ..

    Keep warm and those trax things look useful ... cheers Hilary

  10. Dear fellow yak-trax wearer: Your post nicely illustrates what snow does to us, and for us. We are having subzero temps with snow every day or so.
    Stay warm!

  11. You are freezing at the moment and I'm trying to keep cool in our hot and humid 75 degrees farenheit temperature which they say will go up to about 91 degrees in a few days...

  12. Every word is true. There is one sentence which is not:

    If it lasts more than two weeks it’s cause for comment by the media.

    Two weeks? One day this time. And in advance.


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