Oh my! – 10cm (4 inches in old money), of snow is forecast, and the country goes into a tailspin, with online news pages showing pictures with, ooh, whole millimetres of snow, and rife with comments roughly divided between “Oh god – we’re all doomed!” and “Oh, FFS stop whining!”
It’s a safe bet, though, that to a degree the country is likely to grind to a halt – and the reason for that is most people responsible for keeping the place running when it snows have never even seen a hard winter – they seriously believe 10cm is something to worry about. Bunch of wimps! Of course, a large part of the problem is that it’s a very rare motorist who keeps a spare set of wheels with winter tyres these days, and so they do grind to a halt – but they needn’t. And winter wheels/tyres protect expensive alloy wheels from the ravages of salt, too.
Prior to the onset of climate change, the first frosts would hit in early October, and the land, except for a relatively few, and brief, periods, would be locked in its icy grip until sometime around April, with occasional frosts possible through to the end of May/early June. Farmers digging root crops with pneumatic drills wasn’t uncommon.
By the end of September I’d have already double-glazed my greenhouse by building a tent from plastic sheeting inside, with a paraffin heater running 24/7from the first frosts to the following March most years, and occasionally through to the end of May. Almost every morning, there would be frost to some degree, often with hoar frost almost as thick as snow.
Then, about now, the snow would begin to fall. Not 10 pathetic centimetres, but 10 inches wasn’t uncommon (one morning in 1963 I was unable to get to work by my usual route because my local road was blocked by a 10-foot high drift – so I found an alternative. It meant cycling across a field, but I still got to work.
Yes, boys and girls, we cycled in the snow – how about that? I was a biker, but in snow a cycle was safer – if you fell off it wouldn’t break your leg, for a start. Or your no claims bonus.
Another day, about 1974, I woke to a raging blizzard, 8 inches to a foot or so of snow already lying and my car was buried. Walked a mile to the bus stop – I was a backpacker, and well equipped to deal with extreme weather** – no buses, so I walked three miles to the nearest station and caught the only train that was running that morning to get to work.
**If it had been the weekend I’d have dug out my car and headed for the hills.
And these events weren’t at all unusual across the country (in fact, rural areas were usually hit harder), but we dealt with them, We didn’t turn over, go back to sleep and stay off work, or close schools – we buckled down and got on with our lives – we didn’t bitch about it, or write to the papers, moaning, because it was perfectly normal.
Now, in 2012, when what we get now is barely an inconvenience compared to even the mid 90s, but there are far too many people who think a few centimetres of snow is worthy of a whole raft of news items (trust me, it’s not**), or an excuse to shut down public transport and schools. Schools close, apparently if the ratio of adults to kids falls below a certain level. Why? What do they think is going to happen if a couple of teachers are a no-show – Lord of the Flies time in the playground? Just combine classes, ffs!
**By all means mention it on the weather forecast, but snow in winter isn’t especially newsworthy unless it’s extreme.
If you want to see a real winter, Google winter 1947**and look at the photos. Winter 1963, too. Should help to put 10 centimetres in perspective!
**When I was a kid I had a picture of a house, somewhere in England, in 1947, absolutely covered in huge icicles – noteworthy because when the ice had formed the building had been an inferno and, despite that, water from the fire-fighter’s hoses had frozen solid. Now that’s cold!