Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow Day

It's snowing. I mean, real, actual snow. And I have proof (just in case you don't own a TV or a window):

This was the view from my living room at about 7am. Anyone reading this from outside the UK, or anyone who has moved here from afar, will no doubt be puzzled as to what's going on. Not so much that it is snowing (although that's rare enough) but our reaction to the snow. London has gone snow-crazy. Allow me to explain.

First of all, it doesn't snow in London. I mean not proper snow. The last time I remember decent snow was about 2003, when I didn't have a job, and could therefore spend the morning in the park with a couple of friends building a snowman (oh those productive months after graduation...) but it was pretty shortlived. Before that, I think you'd have to go back almost twenty years to some very cute snapshots of me as a toddler, running around Kew Green after a heavy snowfall.

Second, you have to remember Britain is a nation obsessed with the weather. Given our schizophrenic climate, you really do have to watch weather reports most mornings to keep an eye out for tropical heatwaves in October, heavy snow in April and, of course, the rain. But this is what happens when you're an island that gets a warm breeze from Spain one minute and arctic winds blowing in from Russia the next.

Thirdly, we don't handle snow well. Last year there was 1cm of snow in the city (yes, that's not a typo. 1cm.) and almost all the train services in and out of London ground to a halt. God it's embarrassing. We're the nation that produced Shackleton for god's sake, Captain Scott, Ranulph Fiennes. We're famous for our Blitz Spirit, our stiff upper lip - we're meant to be the team you want in a crisis with our cool, calm approach and endless supply of decent tea, but throw a bit of adverse weather at us and we fall to pieces. On the other hand, this all used to be a bit more fun. Go back a few hundred years and the Thames used the freeze over every winter and Londoners could enjoy the fair that popped up in the middle of the icy river. I'm guessing the issues of commuting this morning would be more entertaining if we could all simply skate down the river to work.

Which is why most of the morning news programmes are devoting all their airtime to the weather. And, to give them credit, coming up with some very beautiful pictures of central London. Lambeth Bridge looked amazing with icicles hanging from the wrought iron and glass streetlamps - all very Dickensian. It's the perfect postcard image, I imagine a lot of tourists are delighted. Hell, I'm loving it. Currently all the airports are closed (fair enough), all London buses are suspended (and no wonder, with a double length 'bendy-bus', that the rear end keeps sliding out of control every time they try and turn a corner - whose bright idea were those idiotic things anyway?) and the tube lines are suspended or delayed. So getting into work this morning is going to be fun, I'll have to take my camera with me.

But for now, I am drinking coffee as it slowly gets a little lighter, watching the snow and thinking of the aptly named Robert Frost.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though.
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost


Woolly Stuff said...

Did you hear about how Obama, who has recently and for obvious reasons moved to DC, was telling people that his daughters were shocked when they got a snow day for so little snow - in Chicago, one of them said, not only would it NOT have been a snow day, but they'd have been sent to play outside for recess.

I think I'm having a bit of a similar experience in terms of the difference between the London vs NYC reaction to 6 inches of snow. It ONLY takes six inches of the stuff to grind everything to a halt?? :)

Hoxton said...

Yup, 'fraid so - this is what I mean. Anyone who has any experience of actual weather - New York, New Zealand, or wherever - must be scratching their heads in disbelief. And apparently we're getting another 6 inches tonight. So civilisation as we know it may in fact stop altogether. I'd get some canned goods in...;)

Woolly Stuff said...

oh, I'm prepared! If there's a gene for hoarding, I've definitely got it. Chickpeas? check. Custard? check. Pasta? check. Pasta? check. Pasta... well, you get the idea. And let's not forget the yarn under the bed. I love your photos - especially as my sister asked for some photos, and I have no intention of leaving the house today, so I just directed her to your website :)

Hoxton said...

You're going to have to give me the recipe for chickpea pasta with custard! Hope your sister enjoys the pics!