Anyone would have thought the UK was in the grip of a new Ice Age when it snowed yesterday. That’s right: in the middle of winter, it snowed. Quite a lot. And the whole country fell apart at the seams.
Our overseas cousins who live in cold climes be must howling with derision at our seeming inability to cope with any extreme weather.
A Canadian who lives in this country revelled in telling me how she chortled as we struggled to do anything ten feet away from our front doors because there had been a light dusting of snow. Where she was from they had proper weather: 35C in the summer and -30C in the winter.
No one missed a day at school or work because of it. They simply had the mentality to deal with it. She travelled on a Trans-Atlantic flight one winter and it landed perfectly well with no problems, even though the weather was Arctic-like.
On her return to England her flight was diverted to another airport because of the inclement weather. It was about -2C and there was about two inches of snow. It took half the time of the flight again to go about 100 miles.
That’s the problem with the UK in general. We can’t cope when it snows and we do nothing to show our mettle. Instead, we put the kettle on, have a nice cup of tea and wait for the nasty weather to go away.
One snap of proper snow and public transport grinds to a halt; people panic about making journeys; roads become gridlocked; the media becomes over-excited at the fact there is a white-out/a big freeze/snow joke etc. To the outside world we must look ridiculous. We are – in general – pathetic.
(Of course, as the subject is weather-related we Brits will talk about it. It doesn’t matter what the weather, we will be able to comment on it ad nauseam: a stiff breeze coming from the east? Oh yes, we will engage for ten minutes about it. Weather too hot? Well, we can regale you with tales of what it was like in ’76.)
But the thing that has narked me beyond belief is that school headteachers were practically falling over themselves to close. Why?
I’ll scream if anyone shouts “health and safety”. According to the BBC, Ed Balls, the schools secretary for England, told Radio Four’s World at One:
“There’s always a balance to be struck. In retrospect maybe the schools could have opened.”
This is certainly the case for primary schools, as many pupils live nearby, although I concede there might be difficulties for some senior schools, as some pupils may have to travel long distances on buses to get there (assuming doting parents allow them to use public transport nowadays).
Schools close because it is difficult for the teachers to get in. And? I am expected to go to work in the bad weather. If I don’t, I, like millions of others, have either to take a day’s leave or go unpaid. Teachers, on the other hand, will be enjoying another day or two’s PAID holiday to add to the 13 weeks+ they already get. I bet if they were told they wouldn’t be paid because of the weather they’d find a way of getting in alright.
Can you imagine what would happen to the economy if everywhere was closed because of the bad weather? The Federation of Small Businesses believes that 20 per cent of the working population didn’t make it to work yesterday. That’s 6.4 million people.
Estimates on the cost to the economy yesterday alone come in between £900 million and £1.2 billion.
That’s the sound of the credit crunching under your snow boots.
(* the headline, by the way, is meant to be hackneyed and cringe-worthy)