It’s snow joke!

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by Patrick O’Connor

NO, I don’t want any fuss, it’s nothing special, let’s just treat it as a normal day.   That was my firm assertion to my wife as my 60th birthday approached.

Did she take any notice? Did she hell!

Unbeknown to me, she had made secret plans to take us back to the hotel in the heart of the Peak District where we stayed for our honeymoon.    A perfect base for sturdy walks through one of Britain’s most glorious national parks but with the added bonus of luxurious accommodation and five-star cuisine.

A cavernous hotel room complete with four-poster bed and a bathroom the size of most people’s lounge. Pop downstairs and you can visit a cosy bar complete with inviting leather-bound armchairs and offering an array of malt whiskeys designed to warm the cockles of any heart.

But something went wrong with her plan, very wrong.

SNOW!!

I’ll say it again: SNOW!! Isn’t that terrible?  We had some SNOW!! Oh my God!! What will we do?

The Peak District was covered in the white stuff and although it was only an hour or so’s drive from our home my wife decided we’d better not venture out.  So instead of cancelling the hotel break altogether and losing our deposit she decided to re-arrange it for later in the year.  At this stage she confided to me the details of her surprise ‘package', and I assured her that she’d made the right decision.

I mean, who knows what disasters could have befallen us if we had set out through the snow to our hilly destination? 

But on reflection maybe we both fell foul to that very British malaise – winter wimpyness.

One national newspaper headlined its front page with a series of ‘crisis’ bullet points: ‘power cuts’, ‘schools shut’, ‘bridges out’, ‘airports closed’, ‘roads blocked’, ‘rail chaos’, ‘grit shortages’, ‘supermarkets running short’ etc etc.

Apparently the last few days have seen the country experiencing its heaviest snow for 30 years. And I guess that’s the nub. Because we don’t have to cope with this very often, our infrastructure is not geared up for proper winter weather.   We have become too soft, too cosy and when we see snow flakes falling we get ourselves into a bit of a state.

Local councils did not have enough gritting salt and therefore had to be selective about which roads they gritted. As I write, fresh supplies are on their way by boat from Spain and Germany!   Rescued by salt from Spain and Germany, how humiliating!

Because the roads couldn’t cope, many schools had to close and consequently that had an impact on businesses with parents taking time off to look after their children.  Interestingly, the Department of Transport was forced to deny reports that Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon had called on Britons to stop whingeing and asked why more drivers had not acquired snow chains for their cars.

As a nation we love to talk about the weather, or to be more precise, moan about it.  But we are very poor at making contingency plans for when conditions move towards the extremes.

The same people griping about their roads not being gritted will be at it again in the summer – “it’s too hot, I can’t sleep at night.” 

Or even worse, complaining to all and sundry that they can’t water their lawns. Heaven forbid!

The overuse of crisis words by the media is a major factor in sending us all into disaster mode.  Although some parts of the country had up to 22 inches of snow, for many of us it wasn’t that bad.  Our own particular road had a good covering, but venture out just a bit further to the main trunk road and everything was fine.

Indeed, just two days after deciding to postpone our Peak District trip, my wife said ‘to hell with this’ and decided to embark on a 400 mile round trip to Hartlepool in the North East for a training course related to her work.  It was an uneventful journey, completely untroubled by snow.   Which means that we probably could have gone to the Peak District after all, as long as we were sensible and took it steady.

So instead of writing this article, I could have been cocooned in leather, bathing in the heat of a glorious log fire and savouring the delights of a 25 year old Glenfiddich.

Now that’s ‘snow joke’!