A while ago I tweeted a snarky comment about how the world was clearly warming up, because we were having snow in Edinburgh, and got some fairly snarky replies.
I’ve been living in the Central Belt for over ten years now, and I’m used to there being a single fall of snow, usually in the second week of January. It lasts a few days, then goes away. Not really usually that much of a hassle. But now, at the end of 2009/start of 2010, we’ve had snow on the ground for two weeks, and several falls, topping up the levels, throughout the period. A further three inches and counting today.
I’m sitting, with my laptop on my knee, writing on my new blog, because our guests for the evening turned and fled for home, only halfway here. And this posed a question:
Why are the British so rubbish at snow?
It strikes me that as soon as snow falls from the sky, everyone goes into panic-mode. We live in a city, we don’t need to be buying up bottled water when there’s half an inch on the ground. We can just walk to the shops, if we absolutely must. Most don’t leave the house until the gritter has been round, frightened almost to agoraphobia by the white blanket.
The rest head out in their cars anyway, completely ill-equipped for the situation, wheels spinning, then standing on the ABS. Have cars’ stability systems ruined the ‘feel’ of the average motorist? Or is our driver training regime an appalling misnomer? And is “coping with snow” purely down to just being able to get around in the stuff?
But really, I think it’s all just a mental issue. With modern life presenting a dichotomy (we’re busy so we need to travel, but we can work remotely if we need to) the mass-panic induced by snow falling shouldn’t really cause the problems it does. But even the travelling itself needn’t be. People seem to immediately drop 20mph, whether there’s actually any real snow at all. But then, when grip disappears, they immediately start over-driving, wheels spinning, and – at best – going nowhere.
Usually in Britain, we have the odd snowfall, it sticks around for a few days and is then gone. But this time it’s sticking around for a while, with subsequent falls thickening the snow and covering the ice. Still, people wander out in regular shoes, slip-sliding along the pavements, or walking on the roads. And the psyche changes. People take on a seige mentality – not helped, it has to be said, by the constant media coverage – and the snow takes on a new significance. Beyond mere weather, now a climatic event. It’s a bit pathetic really. Perhaps, if climate is indeed changing, and more of this weather is to be expected, then we British could actually start learning to deal with it. It would certainly be a revolutionary step for a society so hell-bent on de-risking by removing danger rather than adapting to it.