Just in case you’ve been on Mars over the New Year – it’s been snowing.
It’s not just children who regard snow with wonder and awe in the UK. It’s absolutely everyone, from innocent (ahem) divorcees like me to, apparently, the Mayor of London, all gritters and salt-spreaders, train drivers, coach drivers and bus drivers. Heaven forfend anyone should actually make a plan that could keep this great capital city moving while snow falls.
Of course, we are just as surprised by all other weather conditions. Heat! Oh my goodness, all the rail tracks buckle and we run out of water. Rain! Eek, it’s all too much, we let everything flood because we forgot to clear the drains of leaves because it never rains here, does it? And did you mention leaves? Did you know these actually fall off trees and sometimes get onto train tracks? Well, that makes it impossible to run the trains because no-one could have predicted the autumn, could they?
You get the picture. And you may sense I’m a bit annoyed. That’s because I live in the only ungritted street in Dulwich, and am about as rubbish as Bambi at moving over ice.
Mind you, even with all the gritting and salting in the world, the snow’s timing sometimes seems quite evil. On Wednesday, at exactly school run time, the snow, which had been dropping like desultory dandruff all day, suddenly got serious and came down by the bucket-load. That meant that, within ten minutes, roads which had been safe were suddenly reduced to perilous ice rinks. As we tried to get up the hill away from the school, we saw the terrifying sight of double decker buses sliding towards us – backwards, and completely out of control. Yikes! There were soon abandoned buses and cars everywhere. I grimly kept up the struggle to drive back (no way was I going to ruin my second-best boots by walking) while we started getting the first updates from fellow mums-on-the-run as piano and ballet classes were cancelled and cars were dumped by the wayside.
I count my lucky stars that I’d got stuck in similar icy conditions a week previously and had been helped by a singularly shouty man. As my tires spun on solid ice, with the car slithering from side to side and my panic levels rising to unprecedented new heights, he banged on my window. ‘Have you got experience of driving in these conditions?’ he started off. I simply stared at him – I live in Dulwich, not Antartica, after all. There followed five minutes of solid shouting, as he rattled off instructions. ‘Foot off accelorator! I said OFF! Keep the steering wheel straight. I SAID STRAIGHT! Let the car roll. I SAID ROLL!’ At one point, I swear he actually said, ‘Do what you’re told, woman.’ Normally, a quick and painful death would obviously have followed such a remark. But the fact was that I, and the car, and Child One cowering nervously in the back, were absolutely stuck and we needed help – even shouty help.
The result was, that when we found ourselves on the frozen hill this week with the buses gliding past, I knew exactly what to do. Inside my head, as other people’s tires burnt themselves out on the ice, I was repeating the mantra, ‘FOOT OFF THE ACCELERATOR, WOMAN’, and ‘DON’T TOUCH THAT BRAKE, I SAID DON’T’.
Admittedly, it was two long hours before we got home. But get home we did, and I’d like to say a big thank you to my shouty man. Now, if he could just pop along to the Mayor’s office and have a go at Boris, maybe we could all get back to normal.