Here we go again… December comes… Fairy lights illuminate he streets. Houses are decorated with tinsel. And, voila’, snow starts falling… Doesn’t it all sound delightful? Don’t you immediately feel like you’ve landed in a Disney movie or a Coca Cola advert? Santa Claus going “ho ho ho”, children making a snow man, Christmas carolers singing… “I’m dreaming of a white Christmaaaaasss…..”
Yes, all this would be very nice and realistic perhaps if you lived in Canada, Sweden, Chicago or any other place that is actually EQUIPPED for harsh, winters.
If you live in the UK, the moment snow start falling down, there’s very little to sing about, in fact, most people begin to cry. And your dream of a white Christmas quickly turns into a bloody nightmare.
Of course, when snow first falls, it’s beautiful. Everything becomes so placid and picturesque. London looks so Victorian in the snow, with its red brick terraced houses, their windows illuminated, Christmas trees sparkling inside…
It’s like being in a Dickens’ novel. In Highgate last Saturday everyone was giggling first thing in the morning, when we got up and saw the streets covered in immaculately white powder, so thick you could hardly spot the cars.
The new Indian boys working in the corner shop got so excited (they’d never seen snow before) they kept jumping up and down, taking pictures of each other outside the shop, wearing a Santa hat, asking me to join in (so now somebody in Bangalore thinks I’m Harif’s new wife…)
Buses couldn’t go uphill in Highgate, so we all walked, plunging in the snow, slipping, catching ourselves, giggling like children… People left their cars in the middle of the street… The Heaths looked like Lapland, and soon became a sleigh runway, with kids going SWISH!!!!!!!!!!! and making snowmen…
In the evening we went to a victorian carol concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and Kensington in the snow was spectacular. The Victorian did Christmas very well and the carol tradition is beautiful. We all sang along happily and it felt just so Christmassy…
So far so good. It’s great to live like in Victorian times at the weekend, when you have nothing to do…
Then Monday came… With the realisation that 5 inches of snow had effectively ground England to a halt: traffic, streets, heating, trains, planes… NOTHING WORKED.
“We don’t have the infrastructures to cope with snow,” the government tell us. “Such harsh weather conditions are not the norm in this country, they only happen sporadically so we’ve never invested.”
Right. Splendid. But my question is: when is it exactly that SPORADIC becomes REGULAR? I mean, how many more years of snow blocking our lives do we have to endure before we admit that perhaps some action needs to be taken? So far we’ve had three horribly cold winters. Do we need five? Ten? How many point do we need to qualify as a cold country?
I’ve never considered myself an environmentalist, and I do have serious doubts about the efficiency of recycling, congestion charge and I’m not sure what causes ozone thinning, considering it has been blamed on anything from deodorant sprays (how come they stopped going on about them? There was a time in the early 90s you could almost go to prison for not using a roll on Dove) to cows farting in Australia. But, I know for a fact that for the past 3 YEARS in a ROW, snow and arctic temparetures has affected countries in Europe that are usually much milder. Shouldn’t perhaps beginning to consider the dreadful possiblity that snow has become part of our winter lives? Every time we get stuck in snow billions are lost in refunded tickets, accomodations, lost sales, compensation claims, goods not arriving, shops closing down and people not being able to get to work. London this week was like a post-apocalyptic city: empty icy roads where cars slipped and twisted. Ungritted streets with heaps of snow where buses got stuck for hours. Trains stranded in the middle of the countryside. Commuters rescued by local farmers in the middle of the night, after spending 7 hours on a train to KENT! Kent!!! Can you imagine anywhere milder and more inoffensive than KENT??? Well, Kent was -18C last week!!!!
Can anyone explain to me why trains stop working as soon as it snows? I mean, don’t you remember Dr Zhivago? Omar Shariff and Julie Christie? The scene with Zhivago and Lara (…) on the train surrounded by MOUNTAINS of snow, meters of snow, enough snow to bury the whole of Northern Europe?
Do you recollect hearing any tannoy message playing in the background saying “due to the adverse weather conditions the 11.54 service to Moscow is delayed of appromixately 4 hours. We apologize for any inconvenience caused…”?
NO!!!! The train left absolutley on time, proceeding majestically through freaking SIBERIA.
And shall I mention Anna Karenina? War and Peace? Crime and Punishment? Trains in every one of them.
In 19th century Russia trains could happily face snow but in 21st century they just get stranded in Herne Hill… This is progress for you.
And let’s not mention airports, crowded with passangers unable to join their families for Christmas, forced to sleep on the floor wrapped in foil blankets, looking like a mix between a Star Extra extra and an Afghan refugee… Oh yes, forget about high heels. The MUST for this season is an alluminium blanket.
I’m currently writing from Luton, as you can see…
where I arrived 6 years before my scheduled flight, deciding to leave at dawn after hearing most trains to Bedforshire were delayed and cancelled (but I jumped on the only one that was actually running!!! After 15 years of London and of travelling to airports twice a month I know every single station and every single trick…)
Actually, yesterday, after all airpiorts cancelled most flights for the 3rd day in a row, I bought a back up ticket to Milan for the 24th. 104 pounds. Going back to Italy is costing me as much as a trip to the Bahamas.
Luton is weird. An eerie atmosphere is hanging in the air. It’s actually not as crowded as I expected because many people haven’t managed to reach it – the roads of Bedfordshire being clogged. People wander about as lost souls. Passangers are strangely nice to each other, offering to keep your seat while you go to the toilet. Technology makes everything at the same time easier and more panicky, because we’re all on your iphone, laptop, ipad, gps, trying to check the progress of the weather. The airport manager, not knowing how to make things better, has hired a group of carolers who are currently singing “The twelve days of Christmas” under the tree at the entrance. Only children are blissfully unaware.
When I find out my flight is actually checking in, I start dancing up and down. I’m going to spend Christmas at home! Hurray!
To celebrate even the runway engineers start wearing Santa outfits…
And I need to resell my backup ticket to Milan. Anyone interested?