So it didn’t snow. I was back on the railway yesterday, and everything went rather well. None of the equipment failed, I didn’t do anything stupid, and I didn’t drop any tokens, which is always my biggest worry. It was a relatively quiet shift; I sat in the big armchair with the coal stove roaring away next to me, handwriting a diary piece about how sitting in the big armchair with the coal stove roaring away next to me and the clock ticking on the wall reminded me of visiting my grandmother’s house on winter Saturday afternoons when I was small. I was the first person to arrive at the station; and by the time I left all the station staff had already locked up and left too, it was getting dark, and all the lights were on. Although it didn’t snow, it felt all day as if snow was potentially on the menu.
I do wish the children could come with me to the railway, but I doubt that getting them in the same room as a cast-iron coal fired stove is a good idea: it would result in severe burns and trips to casualty, if not a full-scale conflagration. It is a shame, though, that I spend all day working on the line and then am not home until after they’re in bed.
Today, well, we have a strict no-romance-on-the-14th rule in this house; so instead of doing anything special we went into town and did the usual mundane weekend shopping: new gloves for the children, some stuff from the craft shop; a new USB cable. The Child Who Likes Fairies has learned the word “gouache”.
Most of the intractable problem I was slowly chipping away at at work was solved, today. I suddenly realised that the vast majority of all my unsolved problems - and another, urgent problem, that an outside contractor had asked me for help with - were in all likelihood all just different facets of the same thing. It wasn’t, it turned out, the sole cause of all of them, but it was enough of a hint to clear most of them and give me the boost of encouragement I needed to sort out the rest.
I don’t mean to bang on about the weather, but I’ve been warily watching the forecast all day today. On Saturday I’m due to go and work on the railway, and to get there I have to drive 90 miles ending in a good mile of steep, twisty country lane. Saturday is forecast snow. I really don’t fancy driving there in that weather, and I definitely don’t fancy the risk of getting there, the snow starting, and being unable to get home again. Still, even if it does snow, it should be too warm and wet for the snow to stick.
The rest of the country has snow, apparently, and we have drizzle. I consoled myself by thinking that, by 10am, everything elsewhere was slushy and grey.
I took the children up to the Ponds, and back home again. It’s not the most exciting walk: straight and tree-lined. On the way back I passed a family with the dad telling a young girl: “steam trains used to come up here.”
Ah, snow. You can’t beat it for sending people a bit mad and panicked. Yesterday the roads were gridlocked for half an hour at lunch time, because of the number of people who rushed home at the fall of the first flake. Last night, the news was full of dire warnings. Don’t travel if you don’t have to. Stock up your car. Make sure you take a shovel, blankets, a flask of tea, a flask of soup, sandwiches, cakes, a propane stove, three woolly jumpers and the complete works of Proust, because you never know when you might get stuck. Make sure you have a propane stove and not a butane one because, as all hardy campers know, the boiling point of butane at standard pressure is only around freezing, so in cold weather butane stoves get sluggish, give up and go to sleep.
I was particularly impressed, though, by the words of one of the local police spokesmen interviewed on last night’s news. “If you wake up in the morning and your car’s all frosted up,” I’m fairly sure he said, “you should get up 30 or 45 minutes early and make sure it’s completely defrosted before you set off.” It took me a minute to spot the flaw in the statement – assuming I’m not misremembering what he actually said. I think it’s a pretty good plan, though.
Another day with no morning bus services, and the roads gridlocked. I walked K to work, taking the camera with me, and watched a lorry get stuck on the hilly part of Bedminster Road. Trying to get towards Ashton, it stopped in a queue of traffic, then realised it couldn’t get started again without risking sliding back down the hill. It sat there, impotent, with its hazard lights flashing, as everyone else tried to drive round either side of it.
And then, I nearly broke a leg trying to take photos of the local station. Slipping at the top of the stairs, I grabbed the handrail frantically as my feet disappeared from underneath me. Best to stick to taking photos from the bridge, I thought.
At least the train that came was – to a train geek – quite an interesting one. 2D04, from Taunton to Bristol, one of the services on the Taunton-Bristol-Cardiff route that runs with retro 1970s carriages restored to their original condition, although the engines are rather newer.
And finally: I’m sure it says in the Bible that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Before we went to bed last night, we looked out of the window to see it snowing again, the street covered in a fresh pristine carpet. We couldn’t resist getting dressed again, and going out for another walk with the camera.
Incidentally – while the weather is still cold and the snow is deep again – I should point out that, on this day in 1978, the weather was pretty much the same as it is today. “Country in grip of freeze” all over the papers, and that sort of thing.
The reason I know this is: my mother kept all the press cuttings about it, so she could stick them in her New Baby Book.
The other big thing in the news which she saved clippings of, oddly enough, was: Grimsby workers getting rather upset about foreigners taking their livelihoods away. Back then it was fishermen, who hadn’t quite given up their hopes of fishing in Icelandic territorial waters, even though the main Cod Wars had been over for a few years. Today, of course, it’s oil workers who are going back to work, presumably satisfied that their rather vague demands* have been catered for; the fish industry now sticks to breadcrumbing and battering other people’s fish. This is only a rough guess, based on anecdotal evidence, but I’d say that most of the people working in fish-related jobs in Grimsby are migrant workers – largely, as I said before, because they’re the people who apply for factory-line jobs nowadays.
* An awful lot of the strikers interviewed on TV didn’t seem awfully sure what their demands even were, or what it would take to get them back to work. “We’re sending a message to Gordon Brown, that someone will have to do something?” “What will they have to do?” “Um … well, I dunno, but someone is going to have to do something“
We didn’t think that this part of the country got much snowfall. Indeed, compared to elsewhere, it didn’t; and it was late, when it started. But by yesterday lunchtime it was coming down thickly, although not so thickly that I was dissuaded from wrapping up in hat and gloves and going down the street with the camera, hastily pulling it out from under my coat to take a shot and shoving it back away before too much snow melted on it. This morning, still, there was the telltale glow from behind the curtains.
Yes, typical. I write something about how unreliable the long-range weather forecast is, and what happens? It’s right for once. And the short term forecast – no snow in Wales – was wrong, too. We had a weekend of rain, sleet, snow, hail, wind. When I started to put the tent up, and was engulfed in a cloud of hail, I should have known it was a bad sign.
Still, the tent didn’t leak very much; and, by wearing all the clothes we’d brought at once, we kept warm. Roll on the next camping trip!
It’s a hard thing to do.
The other week, as there’s a long weekend coming up, I booked a camping holiday, in Wales. Only a day or two later, the news outlets started running stories about how awful the Easter weekend weather was going to be; wind, rain, sleet and snow. Oh dear.
There’s still snow on the forecast for Northumbria; but the forecast for the Welsh weather, though, has got noticeably better over the past few days. It’s gone from sleet, to showers, to sunny periods. And I’ve noticed this happening before. There seems to be a tendency now for the forecasts to be more extreme further off, before calming down as the date approaches.
Which is statistically what you’d expect, of course. Extreme weather is, by definition, unlikely, and shorter-range forecasts are always more accurate, so any extreme weather in a long-range forecast is likely to mellow as the forecast gets closer. That doesn’t stop the news jumping on any forecasts of horrible blizzards, though. I’m still worried that the snow forecast for the north Pennines is going to creep southwards over the weekend.
Now, I know we haven’t seen the slightest bit of snow here in the Forest this week. But even so, I don’t see why it’s a major news story just because it happens in London. I suppose, as Diamond Geezer pointed out, there’s a good chance this will be the last time London ever gets heavy snow, so I suppose they should all make the most of it.
At least I’m off to Wooldale tonight, so I should see plenty. Just so long as I can get home again afterwards.