Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Wrong Type of Snow?

It's amazing how a relatively small amount of snow can completely screw up Britain but it always does.

This time around, it wasn't as if we didn't know it about having had the first wave on Friday. But yesterday we got another faceful and total chaos.

Amazingly, without reading the forecast I put a winter jacket, scarf and hat into my boot before leaving for Basingstoke yesterday morning. It rained about lunchtime but it was well above freezing so no one was panicking. By 3.15pm, the MD put his head round my door and said I had miles to travel so go! I didn't get further than a few yards from the office before we encountered a hill where cars were struggling. No sign of gritters but there was one citizen who bought grit from a wholesaler on the business park and he was manfully laying it down the hill. I have a 4 wheel drive Audi saloon so this snow has been a breeze but all the cars ahead were in no way equipped for the snow. Eventually I got my run at the hill and cleared it easily, then came the queue on the A33 to Reading. I did not have a lot of fuel but I knew there was a station half way to Reading.

What could possibly go wrong?

Three hours later the car began to splutter and I had travelled about three quarters of a mile up the A33. I got out, suited up with my golf shoes on and trudged back to Tescos, bought the last can and got some fuel. I bought water and sweets and a few overnight things just in case. Back in the car, I waited another hour and moved no more than 10 yards, I decided to turn back to Tescos and fill up. I took me 40 mins to get there and I filled up. I waited an hour to get back onto the A33 which was still not moving and so made for the M3.

I got drove past the office I left at about 8pm and saw the MD in his office still. I got up onto the ring road and there was a scene from the 'Day After Tomorrow' up there - cars strewn everywhere and people throwing snowballs. When I eventually crept onto the M3 it crawled all the way to the Fleet Services where I had hoped to get coffee but the queue to get in was miles long and lorries lay resting on the hard shoulder either side of the motorway. I gritted my teeth and drove on listening to every book review and play of the X Factor guy on the radio.

I arrived home, some 54 miles from Basingstoke at 11.40pm - the last 40 miles took less than 40 minutes. It struck me that in all that time I had seen only one police car and not one gritter. Eight and half hours to get home.

This year, across the South East, the level of gritting and preparedness for inclement weather has been appalling. There was a rumour spreading that if you attempted to grit and someone fell by your place then you were liable as you had not done the job well enough. I wonder if that was on the Council's mind as there must be some excuse for their inactivity.
Probably all gone home early - after all they didn't want to get caught in the snow.

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