The picture above shows the state of things outside our apartment after yesterday’s blizzard. I’ve only experienced one proper blizzard before, stuck on a ski lift somewhere in the Alps (during which I lost two pairs of my teacher’s snow goggles and, consequently, his favour for the rest of my school career) and thus was a bit bemused when I woke up to find a snowdrift three feet up the sliding door.
It doesn’t faze anyone here. By four o’clock the snow was thinning, there was blue in the sky, Hubby had dug a path to the car so we could nip to the grocery store and to the main house so we could visit Mum-in-law, a man had come with his plough to dig out the driveway and the roads were already being cleared. Today, though it’s snowed here and there (particularly here – there was a cloud over our town, and over our town only), you’d never know we’d had a blizzard were it not for the banks of snow pushed to the side of the roads.
It’s never so simple in England. At the mere mention of snowfall, the country enters panic mode, and for good reason. Our roads are not built for snow, our public transport grinds to an icy halt (during last year’s episode, Richmond station was closed while they tried to free a train frozen to the tracks using a blowtorch) and, worst of all, we have the kind of damp, sticky snow that immediately packs solid or turns slushy, and in both cases turns to ice. Once we succumb to the snowflakes, we’re out of commission as a nation until the sun comes back out.
It’s tempting to say that staying at home for an inch of slush is just making a fuss, but anyone who’s tried to navigate their way across London at 8am on a snow day knows it’s more treacherous than Scott’s visit to the Antarctic. National Rail has been known to shut up shop because of “the wrong kind of snow” (but then has also several times claimed it can’t run because there’s leaves on the line, so we mostly suspect they like a lie-in). For the most part, it’s not our fault: we didn’t build for extreme temperatures, because we don’t tend to get them. We cope with drizzle, on the other hand, with aplomb.
I didn’t take the snow here seriously enough until this blizzard hit. My aunt, who couldn’t bear the idea of me being cold, marched me to the shops to buy a proper winter coat while she was here, and thank heavens she did, because this weather isn’t mucking about.
The night before the blizzard, Hubby showed me an instructional video. Well, sort of: we happened to watch a National Geographic show about blizzards, in which one poor sod ended up trapped in his car for 15 days and another lost 9 of his fingers up a mountain. Getting stuck outside around here is almost guaranteed to lead to hypothermia and/or loss of bodily parts, particularly if you’re somewhere in the 30-mile spans between towns.
I now understand why so many lips tightened when I said I’d be fine going to the supermarket in a short dress and tights, why Hubby keeps a zero-degree sleeping bag in the back of the car and why my father-in-law insisted I have a proper pair of boots.
I shall henceforth be transporting most of my wardrobe with me on every trip to town and refusing to walk over to the main house unless given time to don five pairs of socks.