Thursday, November 25, 2010
On Thursday afternoon I received a cheery phone call from the Mercedes dealership in town. The winter tyres I’d ordered weeks ago, in a quite untypical moment of advance planning, have finally arrived. Unfortunately I now can’t drive my car through the snow to have them fitted, as it doesn’t have winter tyres.
I’m resigned to leaving the wretched vehicle incarcerated in its white overcoat, like last year, until the first thaws of spring.
Enduring Northumbrian winters is like having children. The first is exciting, surprising and unbelievably beautiful. The second is just as attractive but, thanks to the experience you’ve gained from the first, rather more manageable. The third is, to be frank, just a bore and far too exhausting to enjoy: you just want it to do its thing and get to the next season as soon as possible.
This particular infant is about a month premature yet, far from being a meagre little weakling, is a big, bouncing avalanche. I can't remember the last time we had snow this early, certainly not to such an extreme degree. 8 inches landed on our drive on Wednesday night. It began falling shortly after I'd asked Jo to remind me to order some road salt from the builders' merchant. I guess they will have run out by now.
At first Izzy couldn't believe her wonderful new surroundings. She rushed round the garden kicking up white clouds and screaming "no!. no!" – she’s not very good at consonants yet. Now she's not so sure - after another ten inches dumped themselves on us last night, the snow is up to her waist.
The dogs are still excited, though I spend hours prising iceballs out of their ears. I've also been trying unsuccessfully to hack a path out for the oil lorry – we’re in danger of running out of fuel.
Meanwhile my Facebook wall is full of entries from excited friends in London swapping snowflake sightings. Their kids can’t wait to clean off their rusty toboggans and build snowmen: I just want to be able to drive to Waitrose without having to be dug out of a ditch by a tractor.
Within minutes of the first flakes’ arrival I demonstrated the typical demeanour of any Brit facing the first snows of winter: panic. Having to be in London for two important meetings, I watched the weather forecast with sinking heart and decided to fly down the night before. I knew I’d be OK, because I’d driven by the airport a couple of times and the snow wasn’t that deep.
Newcastle Airport responded by doing what airports do: closing down unexpectedly and telling its passengers nothing. So, having been summoned to the departure gate at the appointed hour, with a British Airways plane conveniently parked at the end of the jetty, we all sat down and waited to board. After an age somebody spotted that the plane in front of us was already full of passengers – it was the previous flight that had been waiting two hours for the runway to open. Our plane had apparently been circling patiently over our heads, but eventually gave up and landed in Teesside – neither plane flew anywhere that night.
Quite why the runway was shut on Wednesday afternoon remains a mystery – the weathermen had given us days of warning. I guess they must have been the wrong sort of snowflakes. It wasn’t a very good few days for Newcastle Airport as the following night a plane nearly skidded off the end of the runway. Maybe like me they’d forgotten to order their road salt. I took the train.
I felt sorry for the BBC Breakfast reporter the following morning. Sent out to report on the chaos up north, he parked his satellite truck by a busy roundabout and waited for cars to start spinning out of control. Every time they cut to him, instead of the carnage his journalistic instincts demanded, you could sense his disappointment when he could only film an orderly line of cars confidently steering through the slush. I guess they must all have had their winter tyres on.