Unusually severe winter weather in the U.K. has triggered severe cases of denial and irrational behaviours. To the fore are individuals denying that the weather conditions may require a change of their travel plans
It was a football fan stranded on the M6 motorway who first caught my attention. He had called the BBC. He said he had been stuck for several hours into his journey from Liverpool. He had set off intended to drive to London to the Emirates Stadium. For at least 24 hours, there had been increasingly dire weather warnings transmitted on the station he had called. Don’t travel, they said, unless your journey is absolutely necessary. Hadn’t he heard the weather forecasts? The interviewer did not follow that line of questioning, preferring the number one in the bluffers’ guide to getting a story out of members of the public. How does it feel to be stuck in the snow and learning the football match you are heading for has been postponed?
He felt gutted. Betrayed somehow
Over the next few days the story was repeated in various forms. Some travellers were snow stuck en route to Heathrow and their winter holiday in the sun. The callers were finding all sorts of culprits to blame for their plight. Why hadn’t there been more efforts to clear the motorways? The Scottish transport minister fell on his sword for failing to do better for travellers in the North. In England, transport minister Phillip Hammond tells the House why he should not also resign.
Those travellers who had reached Heathrow found fresh targets for their anger. In packed waiting-areas, delayed passengers told sympathetic reporters how gutted and betrayed they felt. How no-one was giving them any information. How staff seemed to be hiding rather than helping. British Airways. Another cock-up. BAA inept. Boris Johnson with the full authority of his role as mayor of London rang up Heathrow to find out if they were doing all they possibly could. It seems they told him they were. D’yer meantasay roared Stephen Nolan on BBC Five live, that a family can’t travel in England to see their loved ones, their grandchildren, in December? Well, yes, Stephen, that’s precisely what those messages meant which your travel correspondents had been sending out. But full marks for capturing the mood of those stuck at Heathrow or on England’s white and impassable M ways.
Meanwhile in Helsinki …
Ah, yes, the ‘this doesn’t happen in Helsinki‘ story. Why are we so bad at dealing with snow in the U.K.? One of the national jokes is that the first snow of winter catches the rail network by surprise because it is ‘the wrong kind of snow‘. Which is a version of the wrong kind of leaves story. Anyway, Helsinki airport which is publically-owned does stay open in severe weather conditions. Challenge for discussion with the family which will pass the time if you are stranded in the car. Who can think of the best explanation of why Heathrow might be different from Helsinki?
Snow blindness and blind faith
The common factor around the wails of rage was that mood of frustration. And a blindness to signals that their plans may have had to to be changed. For those of a deep faith (like the football supporter) the snow-blindness was all the stronger. And, it goes without saying that someone, somewhere, outside this car was to blame for all this…
Footnote on footware
In Bramhall yesterday morning it was -10 degrees. A wailing ambulance had reached the centre of the village, where someone had slipped at the side of the road. An old lady was gingerly edging her way towards Tesco Express, her walking-frame wobbling ahead for her. We had exchanged words with someone who was wearing his severe-weather turtles. These are chains to wrap around your shoes to prevent you from slipping…