Sunday, December 5, 2010
That’s quite enough, thank you; it’s beyond a joke now.
I originally thought this cold snap (what a misnomer – if a snap is what you find in a cracker, this is small nuclear explosion) was Mother Nature’s little taunt at Patrick, our producer. As if to tempt fate, he’d written these opening lines for a film we were supposed to be shooting this week: “A little girl wanders into a dark, mysterious wood. It’s the end of autumn and the trees are still sprinkled with brown leaves. Running through a deep leafy carpet, she tries to catch them as they float gently to the ground.”
We thought we’d timed it perfectly: not too soon, so there’d be plenty of leaves, yet not too late or we’d risk the January snows. We found an ideal location, booked the crew, cranes, dollies and location catering and cast a 12-year-old girl from scores of hopeful candidates. What could possibly go wrong?
I passed our chosen wood yesterday morning on my way to the airport. Not a leaf to be seen: they’re all mulched away under the snowdrifts. Instead of the dry brown carpet, it now has a shiny white floor like a television studio. You could expect Harry Hill to emerge from behind the trees with a broad grin, a couple of dancing girls and a cheeky Happy Christmas.
We’ve postponed, of course. Patrick has rewritten: “A teenage girl wanders into a wood, carpeted with daffodils.” Sadly it doesn’t have quite the same resonance.
If this weather has affected one film project, I can’t begin to imagine how disastrous it’s been to other industries in the region. On Saturday night I braved the black ice to visit my favourite Newcastle restaurant, Rasa. It was nearly empty: absolutely unheard of for a place that serves by far the best Indian food outside London. Save for a couple of frozen buskers and some semi-naked hens, the Quayside was virtually deserted. If the northeast had a mayor, he’d have declared a state of emergency.
Yet, despite the problems, I’m amazed by how calmly we’ve taken it. Despite the most unpleasant weather in memory, everything has kind of worked. There’ve been no food shortages or panic buying, all our main roads have been kept remarkably clear, trains and planes have got us in and out, and neighbourliness has smiled its way through the crisis. Rasa even managed to get its spectacular kingfish flown in from Kerala.
Sure, we’ve had no post – our icy farm track would have swallowed up the postman’s little red van – but when I eventually made it to the sorting office, our postman had it all organized. He came out with a broad smile and a large box containing the mail for our hamlet, which I then distributed like Santa to the grateful community. This weather brings out the best in northerners, and the worst in our southern compatriots.
Judging by the national headlines, you’d have thought the world had ended when a smidgeon of snow finally fell on the south earlier in the week. The Transport Secretary ordered an enquiry into travel disruption: apparently London was late to work. Yesterday I flew south to see for myself. The sun was warm, the snow completely gone. Almost everyone was wearing designer Ugg boots as they lumbered down de-iced designer streets. People spoke of Kent and Northumberland as distant heathen lands.
I drove comfortably into Berkshire and Wiltshire: there were crashed cars on the M4 every few miles, yet there wasn’t enough snow on the ground to ice a Frappuccino. The woods were amazing, sprinkled with brown leaves and golden carpets of… Hang on a minute: perhaps we should relocate our movie down there?