Saturday, 26 February 2005

A bit nippy

We’ve just had a cold spell, in some places BELOW FREEZING, with some snow; this caused a few small inconveniences, mostly affecting people in remote areas (which are inconvenient to live in anyway) but has been a major news story, with hourly bulletins and clips of children throwing snowballs. The BBC provocatively asked residents of places which get really cold – Canada, the northern US, Scandinavia, Russia – what they thought about this, and they were happy to comment with amazement or amused contempt. They sounded like Monty Python’s Yorkshiremen trying to trump each other with tales of extreme hardship lightly borne: “Of course, we had it cold, we used to DREAM of the thermometer going above minus 28”.

They are quite right: the piece in my local newspaper with pictures showing a light dusting of snow (which disappeared in 12 hours) under the headline Town shivers in Siberian snow storm deserves to be laughed at by those who spend three months of the year shovelling six-foot heaps from their garden paths and driving with casual skill on solid ice.

But there are two things that should be pointed out to those who really know about hard winters. First, being blessed with a fairly equable climate, we enjoy complaining about our weather with wild exaggeration on those days when it turns out less than perfect; on hottish days in the summer there are headlines beginning PHEW!

Second, and more important, we are far too sensible to waste money maintaining fleets of snowploughs and so on which will be used only for a few days each year or possibly not at all. Better, surely, that we should put up with occasional minor irritations and having to listen to the bitter complaints of children (and their teachers) who are forced to take brief extra holidays when their schools close down. And we are well accustomed to trains running late and overturned tankers causing tail-backs on the motorways, even when there isn’t any snow.

Perhaps it is true that we could take some inexpensive measures to protect ourselves better. We could, for example, equip our police with those rather fetching fur hats with ear flaps, like the one Frances McDormand wore in Fargo; but what is de rigueur in rural Minnesota would surely look out of place in, say, Dorking, and since our police are rarely seen walking about they don’t really need them.

Anyway, what happens here when our weather turns cold certainly does not show that we are an effete and disorganised lot; inhabitants of cold countries should recognise this, bless their frost-bitten little toes.

1 comment:

Tony said...

P.S. And though Canadians may be blasé about snow, the Anglicans among them must be shattered to hear that their church, along with the US Episcopal Church, is being asked to absent itself for three years from meetings of the worldwide Anglican communion.
This will leave English Anglicans, who are nowadays less numerous than Druids, feeling a little isolated, though of course they will have the vast Nigerian Anglican communion for company.