I’ve written about this before. I thought I had, but my memory is in the the strictly imperfect tense these days, so I had to take a shovel and dig through this blog’s back numbers. There it was on November 23rd. There had been headlines about ‘Arctic blizzards’. The front pages have defaulted again this week to No Business Like Snow Business. We are marooned. We are doomed. This is the worst outbreak of snow since – since – since – 1991. I actually do believe in global warming, and that saying ‘it happens in cycles’ is a pathetic defence against the fact that most of the edge of Antarctica is now adrift and heading for the Med. But ‘the worst snow since 1991’? What does that mean? What do they say in Canada or Norway when the white stuff drops in ‘too much quantity’ (Boris Johnson) on their country?
Since, and I think they know it, it is only nine weeks since the last time we had to brace ourselves for death by walking about in frozen white water, it was interesting to hear an argument break out (or be whipped up) on both the radio talk-ins and television chat-arounds about not just the fact that we have a bit of a freeze on, but whether we might just be over-reacting. Even Jon Snow – and I hadn’t spotted that pun coming – on Channel 4 News last night, found himself saying in an embarrassed-fogey sort of way (not like him at all) that he remembered trudging to school when he was a child, was there really a need to shut down the schools? He had the head of the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) in front of him, and he gave her an icy look (I meant it that time).
Victoria Derbyshire asked Radio 5 listeners to phone in and say whether it was a good thing that schools were shut. Yes. No. Maybe. Someone let us know that it was a good thing they were, because otherwise the traffic wouldn’t be flowing so freely, and emergency vehicles would not be able to get through. I have gone through that answer with a fine-tooth comb (that is right – there is no such thing as a tooth-comb, something which eludes many people) and I cannot find a shred of sense in it. When the schools are open, is there more traffic? Obviously, there are those who can’t be bothered to take their kids to the bus-stop, and range around the roads in what are, to all intents and certainly purposes, capitalist tanks – but isn’t that just when the schools open and close?
Still, never mind, it livened up the local news. Most of you do not live in Devon, and have no idea what news in Devon can really be like. I will tell you. Unless there has been a serious pandemic, human or non-human, the news can sometimes actually headline the distress caused to a dog-owner who has lost his or her dog. (‘Police are looking for a lead…’.) It is desperate. There is no news in South-West, most days, so the descent of heart-wrenching cold snaps is a terrific relief. The regional news took us to Barnstaple, which had shut its hospital to outpatients, it was that bad. To prove the Armageddon-like state of affairs, a reporter took us on a prowl across the hospital car-park, which lay under, oh at least four inches of the white stuff. He waved his hand. ‘Normally,’ he said, straight to camera, no hint of a wink, ‘this would be full of cars.’
There were tales on the national news of people whose electricity was off in Rothbury in Northumberland (where my mother spent most of the war, to avoid night-time raids on Sunderland, where she worked by day). A reporter tried to crack the local shopkeeper by suggesting that disaster was a few flakes away. The shop-keeper said he thought they had enough food. The reporter tried again, but was batted away by common sense. Another news report – incredulous – spoke of people helping each other out, and showed a picture of ten pedestrians helping a car-driver out of a small snow-drift on to a passable road. No! Unbelievable!
It’s no good. I will never be a Southerner.
Or a regional news reporter.