WEATHER FRONT FANTASY

January 29, 2012

 

Here we go again. Another headline warning of “Siberian Conditions” hitting us in the next few weeks.

Let’s just remember back to the beginning of November. The headlines ran along the lines of “BIG SIBERIAN FREEZE TO HIT BRITAIN”. The so-called “experts” confidently predicted a bitterly cold December with thermometers falling at least as low as -15C. They warned that snow could “…hit the country even earlier than last year.” And others added that “…temperatures could plunge as low or even lower this winter.”

The prognostication for December and January were even worse…. Basically, we would all be frozen to death by now. Of course, it didn’t happen. In fact, it’s shaping up to be the mildest winter since records began over a century ago.

Having made a “prediction” like that, and got it so badly wrong, you would think that these forecasters would hang their heads in shame, padlock the door to their weather stations, and never return. But, no, last week, they were once again grabbing the headlines with their predictions of icebergs floating along the Union Canal, warning: “BRITAIN SET FOR MONTH-LONG SIBERIAN FREEZE”.

Time to put a stop to it all, I think.

And that was why I was delighted to learn that in South Africa weather forecasters have been warned they could face fines and even jail for issuing incorrect weather predictions. The new law has been implemented to prevent panic and economic damage as a result of false predictions. First time offenders could face a four or five-year sentence and a £400,000 fine, while repeat offenders face a maximum of 10 years or an £800,000 fine.

You see, the Merchants of Doom who have had us all out stocking up on tinned foods, rocksalt, and snow shovels are not employed by the Met Office. They are characters who work from their garden sheds and base their predictions on tides and solar flares. I suspect they also use the entrails of chickens and tea-leaves.

So, causing widespread panic, and having our councils spend a fortune preparing for horrendous weather conditions that just aren’t going to happen should cost them dear.

A huge fine or imprisonment? Sounds reasonable.


SPECIAL SERVICE? NOT THIS TIME.

December 19, 2010

 

It’s been a strange lead-up to the Festive Period. The country ground to a halt due to weather conditions more normally experienced in Siberia, and the result was the collapse of every delivery service known to man.

I heard a perfect example of just how crazy things have become when a friend of mine went to post a parcel at the Post Office. We’ll call him Dave, because that’s his name.

 Dave: “I have a Parcel for posting.”

PO: “That’ll be £3.00.”

Dave: “Will that be delivered tomorrow?”

PO: “No. You’ll need to send it by Special Delivery if you want that.”

Dave: “How much is that, then?”

PO: “£7.00”

Dave: “OK, I’ll go for that then.”

PO: “Certainly… except, Royal Mail have retracted the next day guarantee because of the weather.”

Dave: “When will it get there then?”

PO (shrug) “A few days.”

Dave: “So, how much for that then?”

PO: “Still £7.00.”

Dave: “Eh?”

PO: “Oh, but it will still be treated as Special Delivery!”

Honestly, how nuts is that? Premium price: inferior service. What does “Special Delivery” mean in this case? Does the little parcel get to snuggle up to a radiator in the packed warehouse or something? Or when it eventually DOES get out on the road, does it get to ride up front with the driver?

However, despite the delivery fiasco, ice, snow and tumbling temperatures, I have it on very good authority that it will be yet another bumper year for the retailers. And I can assure everybody that none of this will stop Santa from making his regular rounds.

There will be smiling faces and friendships rekindled across the county – nothing can keep us down!

So, have a great Christmas as we look forward to the coming year… and a thaw.

Drew McAdam


ATTENDEEISM – A NEW KIND OF HOLIDAY

December 11, 2010

Here’s a new word for you: “attendeeism”. Perhaps it is easiest to explain if you consider it the opposite of “absenteeism”.

Let me explain. During the recent bad weather the local authority took the decision to close the schools. That was their decision. Even if a teacher was willing and able to work, they couldn’t. They had, effectively, been laid off.

Clear? So why does Oor Cooncil then tell those on whom they padlocked the doors that they can either agree to make up the time, or treat the lost days as part of their annual leave? Seriously, that’s what they’re telling them!

So, even if a teacher trudged all the way to the school and then pounded on the locked door… tough. You lose a day’s holiday.

Does that seem reasonable or fair to you? No, nor to me either.

Even the LGE (Local Government Employers) website states that “By closing an office or a school or by instructing employees not to travel to work, the local authority is preventing the employee from working on that day and, as this is through no fault of their own…” Quite right.

And the TUC states that “Scrooge bosses” who… take away holidays are needlessly adding to their business woes by creating resentment amongst staff.” Doesn’t take a genius to work that out – which is why Oor Cooncil haven’t worked it out, presumably.

They go on: “Workers who have been prevented from getting to work… should not have to foot the bill for the bad weather conditions.”

Do Oor Cooncil think the teachers were on sun loungers sipping drinks at the side of a pool? No. They were not on holiday. They were digging their cars out of the snow and trying to clear streets so that if the weather eased they would have a better chance of reaching their place of work the next day. Some “holiday” that. And yet they are being penalised for a High Heid Yin decision to shut the schools.

If I was a teacher being robbed of my holidays I would be making an appointment with a solicitor. There are complicated rules surrounding lay-off clauses, including rules about statutory guarantee payments and so on, and in terms of the law and adverse publicity for their bonkers policy of attendeeism, these couldn’t-hold-down-a-real-job rulemakers wouldn’t stand a proverbial snowball’s chance…

It’s just another example of ill thought out, silly muddle-headedness by Corporate Services (yes, them again) numpties who couldn’t hold down a job in the real world.

Get a life, boys. And let the teachers have their life – and their holidays – too.

Drew McAdam


SNOW SHIFTING. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

December 5, 2010

 

Hats off to them! Oor Cooncil has done a sterling job during the recent cold snap.

No, I’m not being sarcastic. The pen-pushing plonkers in Oor Cooncil have come in for a bashing on several occasions in this column. But, my goodness, the real workers among their number really got stuck into the problem of clearing the streets with a vengeance.

Last year, you may recall, West Lothian was more or less left untouched until the snow had all but gone. Other councils had conscientiously cleared up to our borders; so when you hit West Lothian you knew it, because instead of roads we had snow tracks.

As for theside streets and pavements, they didn’t see rock salt until Spring was about due. Then some wee workers came round in a yellow van and spread messy, gritty, ineffective whinsand. They would have been as well tossing out cheese and onion crisps for all the good that was – and as about aseffective. The A71 – along with other major thoroughfares – was left untouched for days, and everything simply ground to a halt.

But not this time. A foot of snow, on top of everything that had fallen before, fell in two hours. And straight away they were out there, dealing with the situation. Pavements were being cleared. Roads were being snowploughed and gritted. Men with high-viz jackets, with shovels and barrows of salt moved in.

I tell you, something has changed somewhere in the council policy. And whatever that change might be, it is to be applauded.

Mind you, it’s also hats off to the people of Langside Crescent in Polbeth. I had to walk to West Calder, and after a couple of hours I returned to find the snow cleared from the majority of the street. Snowplough? No. Kids with shovels – a squad of them – then the parents joined in, and before long there was a human snowplough working its way down the street.

And one kid I spoke to refused to take any money for his efforts.

So, to all of you who helped keep the county moving, council and communities alike, well done. In the face of one of the worst snowfalls and freeze-ups in living memory, you proved your salt.

And that’s heart-warming no matter what the weather might be outside.

Drew McAdam


I PREDICT A PALAVER

October 24, 2010

 

If I could accurately predict the lottery numbers, would you pay attention? Of course you would.

Well, I might not know the winning numbers, but I would like to make a prediction that is guaranteed one hundred percent accurate. It is for West Lothian Council in general, and the Roads Department in particular. Yes, a genuine prediction.

Let’s see if THEY pay attention.

As a regular guest on STV’s “The Hour”, the presenters seem to really enjoy when I get them to select something at random, then demonstrate that I knew in advance what the outcome would be.

Last week, Michelle McManus selected a celebrity at random from a list of a hundred. She happened to opt for Sean Connery, and it just so happened that I had already arranged to have a Sean Connery lookalike planted in the wings. 

It proved that I knew, in advance of the event, what was going to happen. I had predicted it.

So, here is a special prediction for West Lothian Council.  (And remember, I have a reputation for getting these things right. Just think of me as a sort of Nostradamus of the North.)

My prediction for Oor Cooncil: I realise that this may come as something of a surprise, but over the next few weeks it’s going to get colder. Ice will form on the roads and pavements of West Lothian. There might even be snow.

So, now that you know what the future holds, it might be a good idea to nip down to wherever you keep the rock salt supplies and check that, this year, you have enough.

Because “whindust” (just granulated rocks, really) doesn’t contain salt, and doesn’t dissolve. Which is why the citizens of West Lothian are still tramping it into their homes a year after you spread tons of it all round the streets. And it’s why many drains are blocked.

There; the oracle has spoken.

PLEASE don’t have me coming back halfway through the winter and saying: “I told you so.” It’s boring for me: it’s embarrassing for you.

Drew McAdam


WEATHER WOES

May 30, 2010

 

Wow – what a scorcher. West Lothian has had some beautiful sunny days recently with thermometers threatening to pop their tops.

Of course, weather forecasters didn’t see it coming. They never do.

Recently, I was watching the weather channel at 8am in the morning – don’t ask, I just was, right? – and the weather girl informed me that there was heavy showers and overcast skies at that moment across central Scotland. Except, that wasn’t the case. The sun was splitting the trees.

The question that sprung to mind was, if they can’t report the weather correctly as it is at the moment, what hope do they have for forecasting what it’s going to be? And another thing; why didn’t they phone me, ask me to pop my head out the window, and report back with the present conditions?

I recall that a few years ago some students managed to forecast the weather over a long period of time with greater accuracy than the professionals. Asked how they were so precise in their forecast they revealed that they had merely predicted that the next day’s conditions would be exactly the same as they were that day.

A tad embarrassing, that!

However, if you want to forecast the weather even more accurately for the West Lothian area, I suggest we follow the advice of one local farmer who told me to simply look towards the Bathgate Hills.

If you can see them clearly, it’s going to rain. If you CAN’T see them clearly… it’s already raining.

Using that system we can safely disband the Met Office and save the country millions.

Drew McAdam


ANOTHER GRIT GRIPE

January 2, 2010

 

Have you seen the gritters out and about?

You have? Excellent; that’s where they are supposed to be.

And according to a press release from Oor Cooncil, the main priority of keeping the local main road network clear has been achieved thanks to gritters and snow ploughs treating all 600 miles of main road four or fives times each day.

Hooray! But, hang on. You can’t argue with mathematics. By my reckoning, one gritter travelling at an average of only 25 mph for 24 hours would grit all 600 miles. To grit all the main roads four times a day would therefore take 4 vehicles.

Can you see where this is going?

In the same press release, Robert De Bold, Executive councillor for the Environment, informs us that there are 18 large gritters… So while the 4 gritters are working the main routes, where are the OTHER 14 gritters?

Not doing anything, must be the answer. It’s maths, mate.

And that’s not even bringing into play the 12 multipurpose vehicles and 30 mini tractors that our taxes paid for.

Oh, and by the council’s own figures there are 150 staff working to keep the county moving. Well, unless each of the four grittersw it takes to keep the main roads clear carries 37.5 workers; they seem to be missing in action, too.

What makes this even stranger is that I have seen the gritters out and about several times. And as one flew past me I waited for the rattle of grit hitting the side of my vehicle… nothing.

It was lit up at the front with a bank of bright lights that would fell a deer at 400 yards, and was covered in yellow flashing beacons as it sped along the A71. But it wasn’t dropping a grain of salt in its wake.

Weird.

Since then, having seen others – again with all the paraphernalia and the lights – I followed them out of curiosity. Despite the temperature being well below freezing, they were most definitely not gritting. None of them.

So, what’s going on? Are we going to be shown the tacographs from these vehicles demonstrating that they have travelled thousands of miles during the mini West Lothian Ice Age? Probably.

Well, big deal. If they are not actually spreading grit then all they are doing is burning up fuel and making the mileage look good.

Instead of doing that they could be clearing the minor routes where there are still people who have been unable to move since the freeze began.

It’s just a suggestion.

So keep a look out. The next time you can’t believe you’ve actually spotted the hazard warning beacons of a gritter coming along your road, check if it’s actually doing anything.

Or if it’s just trundling along the road to keep up appearances.

Drew McAdam