Sunday, January 10, 2010
The Social Effects of Snow
Last week my mother-in-law’s suitcase went on holiday to Hawaii. We’re all rather envious of it; we hope it might send us a postcard to remind us of warmer climes. American Airlines thoughtfully flew it there instead of letting it shiver with its owner here in Newcastle. Now, a week later, it’s probably sitting in some nice comfy warehouse waiting reluctantly to come and join us in the snow. Doubtless it will turn up the day after she flies home to California. Or perhaps the airline will just wait till the spring, by which time Izzy will have outgrown the birthday clothes the suitcase apparently contains.
I’m actually rather relieved American Airlines’ luggage services haven’t even bothered to try to deliver the thing, or rung us to tell us what’s happening, or even answered their phones for the last week. It saves us having to dig their delivery van out of the snow.
On Tuesday a very nice man arrived with a large box from Marks & Spencer. As we live at the bottom of an incline, he had absolutely no trouble getting down to us. Leaving was another matter. After an hour of shunting back and forth, each whirring wheel digging the van further into the verge beside the road, the man despairingly told us he had 43 packages on board, and we were only his third successful delivery of the day. It was five o’clock in the afternoon.
It took us until 10pm to dig, push and tow him out of the snowdrift. Did he just give up and go home, or did he carry on regardless? There’s a reality show to be made about delivery men. And another about those magnificent men in their gritting machines. Don’t listen to the people who moan on about our councils. I think they’ve done an amazing job keeping the main roads going. Even though I suspect most people have had nowhere to go and nothing to do when they get there. The entire country has frozen into delightfully anarchic inactivity.
We opened the big box from Marks & Spencer. We were curious to see what had been so vitally important as to warrant all the guaranteed next day delivery stickers. We secretly hoped it might be a giant food parcel and wondered who might have known that we were running out of unsalted butter. Beneath layers of protective wrapping was a small wooden Noah’s Ark, a present from a thoughtful godmother. It was presumably to help Izzy survive the floods when all this snow melts.
The following day some equally nice men from John Lewis arrived to lay a carpet and they also threatened to become houseguests. However, unlike the man from M&S, they had thoughtfully been provided with smart new shovels with “Never Knowlingly Undersold” printed on the side. You can tell a lot about a store by the quality of its snow shovels. It only took them a couple of hours to get out of the same snowdrift.
Britain comes alive in a weather crisis. Having done nothing but moan about our grey and wet climate all year, faced with a proper flood, heatwave or blizzard our country really rises to the challenge. What I like best is our rediscovered sense of community.
Neighbours who normally don’t speak to each other all year suddenly offer to help with groceries and path-clearing; four wheel drive vehicles cruise up and down the lanes seeking stranded cars to rescue. There’s a wartime spirit in the ice-clad car parks: supporting arms are proffered, bags carried, and everyone has an opinion. From global warming to the accuracy of the forecast, from the standard of the road gritters to the cost of winter tyres, people love to gossip about the snow. Now that it’s starting to melt, what on earth are we going to say to each other next week?