Another piece of recycling from my old website. This was originally posted in February 2012, but in a month when millions of people visit their local bookies to take a punt on whether we’re going to have snow for Christmas it seems very apt today. Two years on you can pretty much ignore the sentence that includes the words ‘I can afford to have my heating on’, because government policy and rank profiteering by energy companies have taken their toll, but other than that and the fact there’s currently no snow to contend with it all seems fairly relevant…
On Saturday it snowed. It snowed overnight, and on Sunday my son went sledging with a mate for a couple of hours, which he quite enjoyed. Other than that, we didn’t really bother venturing out anywhere, because it was too cold, too uncomfortable, and, as far as the car went, too slow and potentially dangerous to seem worthwhile.
After walking him to his mates with the spare sledge so they could have one each I tromped through the snow to the field opposite my home and took a few ‘snowy scene’ photos that were probably very much like a million other snowy scene photos that were taken that day, with very little artistic merit and nothing memorable about them other than the fact that there was white where usually there is green. I uploaded them to the computer where I have many other unmemorable photos that I very rarely look at.
I’ve no idea what the cost of that two hours of sledging and photography is likely to be because I have yet to get my fuel bill for the period – coming up to a week now – surrounding that two hour ‘window of opportunity’ where temperatures have been low enough to demand pretty much constant central heating, but suspect when I do it will hardly seem like money well spent. I, of course, am extremely lucky because however much I might resent spending that money and whatever temporary scrimping it might mean, I can afford to have my heating on, and I do have a home with four walls and a roof to shelter me from the worst extremes of the weather. Despite this I can’t quite manage to feel the same degree of joy and wonder expressed by many Twitterers and Facebookers upon the announcement of an imminent fall of frozen water particles.
I mentioned this briefly online, along with other observations about the billions of pounds that would be lost by industry and the inconvenience to families whose children wouldn’t be able to attend school should the weather continue beyond the weekend, in what I thought was a jocular, tongue-in-cheek sort of way, and was quite surprised – nay disturbed, if I’m honest – at the levels of anger and hostility these observations seemed to incite among supporters of the white stuff.
So am I wrong in thinking that an afternoon of slipping and sliding around on sheets of plastic or rolling and throwing balls of compacted ice seems poor compensation for the amount of misery and inconvenience that goes hand in glove (oh dear, oh dear!) with those experiences, or for thinking that the cost for the weakest, poorest and most vulnerable in our society is too great compared to the limited gain for those who can afford to enjoy and be entertained by it?
I was ‘told off’ for not accepting that we live on ‘an island of seasons’ – effectively that if I didn’t like it I should bloody-well lump it – and to a point that’s a reasonable observation. But would homeowners whose houses got flooded on this ‘island of seasons potentially including rain’ be expected to just cheerfully grin and bear it as they waded through rivers of effluent and Weil’s diseased outflow coursing into their living rooms from the overburdened lakes of the local treatment plant? Or those who got their roofs blown off by the occasional hurricane wind be upbraided for not just shrugging their shoulders and saying ‘oh well, that’s what comes of living on an island of seasons potentially including gale force winds’? When the streets are flooded should we be cheering and having canoe races up and down the high street? When ill winds are scattering trees like leaves and lifting tiles like playing cards should we be getting our kites out and singing that lovely song from Mary Poppins while skipping hand in hand to the park? And if the answer is ‘no’, then why? I mean, it’s all just weather isn’t it, and no matter how much we don’t like it there’s not much anyone can do about it, is there?
I was also told by the Twittering twits that old people don’t die because of snow they die of cold, and that snow on roads can be dispersed by the application of grit. Cold related death, then (and sorry, I still regard snow and cold as intrinsically linked – you might get cold weather without snow, but never in my experience snow without cold weather) is the ‘fault’ of government pensions rather than the cold itself, and impassable roads the ‘fault’ of bad planning, lack of government expenditure and an ineffective infrastructure. And you know what, I do agree with those things to a point, but with the obvious concession that if we want to give pensioners more money so they can pay their heating bills rather than freezing to death and we want to make stockpiles of grit together with the machinery and workforce to distribute it priorities for government expenditure then we either have to cut spending elsewhere or increase taxes.
Perhaps a ‘snow tax’ would solve the problem – a specific, ring-fenced taxation and budgeting system drawn directly from the salaries of those who go ‘yippee’ when the weatherman forecasts snow? It could be used to provide heating for the old and cold, shelter and food for those at risk on the streets, and grit, gritters and manpower to ensure that trains and roads can all function properly with no losses to businesses or our children’s educations when the white stuff falls from the sky. All those ‘yippee-ers’ in favour put your hands up…… Oh… I was expecting a better response than that (*whistle*).
And just what is it about snow, anyway, that makes it so bloody special that someone moaning about it is branded ‘judgemental’ or, possibly, a miserable old git/gitess purely and simply because he or she doesn’t like it very much and thinks that people who do are possibly failing to see the bigger picture and cost? What’s snow got that sunshine, rain and wind haven’t?
Sunshine is lovely stuff: flowers and other flora reach out to covet it, feeding themselves and us in the process and just generally making us feel good with their lovely colours and smells and flavours. Sunshine provides light in the daytime and reflected light at night, and sometimes paints the skies in ways that would shame the greatest painters who have ever lived. Despite this, nobody ever complains if at the height of summer I puff a bit and moan ‘‘ot, ennit?’. Lovely stuff, sunshine, I like it a lot.
Beautiful water is the source of all life. Without it out planet would be a dust bowl. It has, as rain, a job to do and does it very effectively, keeping us and everything else that lives on the planet alive and providing homes for countless billions of creatures that swim, float and nest on, in and around it. And nobody ever complains if I grumble a bit when it rains on my barbecue, despite all these wonderful gifts it showers (oh dear oh dear again) upon us. Beautiful stuff, rain, I like it a lot.
If I’m honest, I’m not so keen on wind, especially if it’s a keen wind (*ouch*). It’s a bugger with a brolly, and while it’s good for flying kites and sailing sailing dinghies (oh look, Petunia…) those are not pastimes I frequently indulge in, so they have little relevance for me. Regardless of my disinclination towards wind, though, I can appreciate the many benefits it bestows when blowing seeds and spores hither and yon, working in partnership with the lovely sun and beautiful rain to provide us with food and energy. Great stuff, wind, and in the context of the bigger picture I like it a lot.
Snow, of course, does have its place and role. One thing it’s very, very good at is reflecting heat back up into the sky and stopping our planet from overheating. It may very well be, if we don’t think of another way of buggering everything up even more quickly, that the disappearance of ice at the extreme poles of our planet will mean an end to life as we know it (i.e. in relation to our own selfish selves, the only kind of life we seem to consider in any way important despite all the evidence that we’re effectively short-sighted parasites determined to destroy our own host), which would be a bit of a bugger really. It’s also rather good at preserving sossidges and stuff in the back of my freezer, and I’m all for a bit of sossidge or the occasional pork chop.
Thing is, though, outside of my freezer (or anyone else’s, come to that) the presence of snow and ice in the UK is not generally a good thing. As the polar icecaps melt we will see more extreme weather, both in terms of rising temperatures and, paradoxically, frosts and cold. Cheering for and hoping for more snow in the UK is actually an endorsement of global warming: a direct vote for increased erosion of the polar icecaps and the destruction of the habitats of the animals and people living there.
So is it so selfish of me not to like it? Is it so unreasonable and so ‘judgemental’ to hope that it just stays where it’s supposed to be, and doesn’t come blowing its way up my back passage too often or too forcefully? I hope not, because I’m not generally a selfish person and I like to think that I’m pretty non-judgemental on the whole.
For anyone who did get out in the snow on Sunday I hope you had lots of fun and enjoyed the hot chocolate and warm in front of the fire afterwards as much as my son did. For anyone like me, though, who thought of it and the cold snap surrounding it mostly in negative terms I hope you feel reassured by this blog that you are not alone. Who knows, given time we dissenters may, like other minority groups, reach a point where we can speak openly and freely about how we feel without being judged as judgemental or poo-pooed as party poopers…
Snow bashers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your (snow) chains…
Oh… an Advent Calendar of Christmas themed stuff from myself and my friends at the Tunbridge Wells Writers…