THERE’S A BIT OF SNOW, and suddenly ‘ooray! the TV news teams have something to bang on and on about. And with the snow came headlines of “Arctic conditions”, “Whiteout chaos” and “Blizzard-hit-Britain”
But in case you haven’t already worked it out for yourself: it was just a wee bit of weather – not a major disaster. (During that week I drove over 1200 miles to gigs in the Staffordshire and Birmingham areas of Englandshire without my ABS kicking in even once. It was snow on the distant hills, clear roads and bright blue skies all the way.)
However, that didn’t stop our desperate newshounds hyping it up out of all proportion, making a blizzard out of a flurry.
Thrilled reporters informed us that no buses were running in London, only a few underground trains were operating, just one in four made it into work, schools were closed and there was a military revolution in Maidstone… Okay, I made the last one up, but if they can exaggerate then so can I.
There was even some orchestrated footage of youngsters having a playful snowball fight in Trafalgar Square, though you soon realised that they were struggling to find tiny patches of slush that they could form into anything resembling a snowball.
Even the footage of sledging activity showed kids on tin trays scooting over what was clearly little more than muddy grass with patches of long-melted snow on it. And if there really was traffic chaos, how DID the film crews manage to drive there to film it? Answer me that.
As if all that were not enough, the newscasters gleefully encouraged viewers to send in photographs of how the blizzard had affected their life. The result was a ridiculous slideshow of fuzzy pictures depicting an equally fuzzy wee dog on a white lawn, a car with some white stuff on it, and a pathetic, tiny snowman.
Now, let’s take this one step at a time. Several of the phrases being bandied around had only the flimsiest grip on reality. For example, “blizzard” was a favourite. Actually, the technical definition of a blizzard is “sustained winds of 35mph or more with considerable snow for a period of at least three hours in which visibility is reduced to less than one-quarter of a mile.” So, it wasn’t that.
“Whiteout”. Hah! I’ve BEEN in a whiteout and it’s one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. When you stretch your hand out, it vanishes. You lose all perception of distance and space – even which way is up – because in that maelstrom of swirling whiteness you can’t even see your own belt buckle. Moreover, if you went into the garden to take a fuzzy picture of your dog, you wouldn’t find your way back to your own front door – or see the dog again.
Oh, and “Arctic conditions” was a favourite. Well Alfred Wegener of the Polar and Ocean Research Institute spends much of his time releasing weather balloons from ice floes. There, the temperature is 37 degrees below freezing and, as he says, “You can choose how long you want to stay outside. Short to live. Long to die.”
You wouldn’t want to be sledging in it, then.
Sure, there were small areas hit by “weather events” as they have now become known. But on one channel there was a female presenter showing the audience at home that the snow came “almost to the top of my welly boots.” Well, lady, where the snow blows off the top of the Bathgate Hills into the dips in the road the snow comes “almost to the top” of a double-decker bus!
So, how come when it snows here in West Lothian – feet of snow that lasts for weeks, not just the slushy inches that Englandhsire got – we mange to get to work, the buses still run, and some fools even go out on their motorcycles to beat the rush? Simple: we don’t get stuck in our own streets. Rather, all the neighbours rally round, digging each other out and mucking in together to get everybody on their way.
We appreciate it for what it is – just a wee bit of nuisance weather. It’s not an earthquake; neither is it a tsunami. It’s just weather.
Because the REAL news is simply that the “whole country”, as London now is, played truant and had a bit of fun.