Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Snow freezes Britain to a halt - but did it years ago as well?

Just like they said the summer of 2009 would be a "Barbecue Summer", when it turned out to be an average summer, a few months ago, the Met Office said that the winter of 2009/10 would be mild and wet. In fairness to them, they did forecast the present Arctic conditions, and it is too early to deliver a post-mortem on this winter, as it doesn't end until the 20th March, but in future, I think they should stick to short-term forecasts, and avoid making forecasts months in advance, unless they are setting themselves up as a Nostradamus in reverse. We have had two heavy snowfalls already, and it is only the
6th January.


Almost a foot of snow fell on the 20th December 2009, which didn't fully clear, when the second lot fell on the 5th January 2010. It started snowing yesterday at about 6am, and didn't stop fully until 6.30pm. There were further flurries, which didn't finish until 8.20pm. There was a snow shower at about 12.30pm today, and it has snowed this evening from 7pm. About nine or ten inches have fell in the last two days. Many motorists had to abandon their cars yesterday and most bus and rail services were cancelled.

I'm not saying things were better when I was younger. They weren't. I also don't think that anyone should risk their lives in going to school or getting to work. When the weather is as severe as it is at the moment, children should be kept off, but I can remember, on several occasions, in the Junior and Secondary school, going in at least a foot of snow, and thinking no more of it. In the final year of myself being at Junior School (On Monday 12th January 1987), we had an exceptionally heavy snowfall. On that occasion, the school boiler was working. However, my mum kept me off, but about half of the year went. The following Monday, my mum wrote a letter on my behalf saying that she had kept me off, and why. This was in anticipation of myself having to explain where I had been. Her anticipation was correct, as I was asked.

The only other occasions I can recall being off school because of snow was from Monday 10th February 1986, when I was nine-and-a-half, for a week, and from Wednesday 6th February 1991, when I was 14-and-a-half, for three days. Both times, we weren't sent home because of snow, but because of the school boiler breaking. On the latter occasion, we were instructed to return the following Monday, by which time the "Boiler will be fixed". Most of us did return, including myself. However, the snow still hadn't fully cleared, and didn't do so until the end of the week.

I recall going at school on odd occasions when it snowed in the Infants, though I can't remember the dates. I definitely remember going to school and coming home in early 1985 when it snowed, in January and February 1986, when it snowed, I think in March 1987, on Friday 22nd January 1988, March 1988, November 1988, late February/early March 1990, December 1990. Doubtless, there are other occasions, which have slipped my memory due to the passage of time.

Times certainly have changed. They get a dusting of snow nowadays, and pupils are sent home until it has totally thawed. I wonder why that is? Britain was also hit by three severe winters, between the 22nd January 1947 and 16th March 1947, between the 22nd December 1962 and 5th March 1963 and between 28th December 1978 and late March 1979. I wonder how people coped, and fared in those days? Were schoolchildren sent home? Were bus and rail services cancelled? Did people not get to work? They seem to manage ok with persistent deep snow cover in Russia, Greenland, Iceland and Siberia. It makes you wonder....

As a final footnote, perhaps a career in politics might be appropriate for those who work at the met office, with barbecue summers and mild winters, as they would be suited for a job where they say one thing, and mean another.

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