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London snowmanThe Advent Panda

22nd Dec 2015: Still dreaming of a White Christmas?

Christmas snow is rare in the South East of England, despite what tradition and fiction would have us believe. The chances of you getting out there and building a snowman before tucking into your Turkey is pretty slim.

I think for the UK gamblers, the payout is dependent on a single flake of snow falling on the roof of the Met Offices in London during the 25th of December. I’m not quite sure how that works? I know they’ve got lots of equipment up there but I’m sure it doesn’t cover the WHOLE roof. I have a picture in my head of several hardy chaps in scarves and bobble hats sitting equidistantly from each other on the roof and keeping vigil for 24 hours whilst passing round large flasks of coffee. It may not snow, but its bound to be pretty chilly up there!

What are the qualifications for a professional snow spotter and what do they do for the rest of year?

I suppose it’s just another of those great Christmas mysteries…

TP.

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TP28 sun worshipperThis was my opening line to the taxi driver who collected me from my house this morning to take me to the railway station.

Against the backdrop of a blue sky and sun streaming through the windscreen, he paused momentarily as if processing my comment, before collapsing into laughter and stalling the car. Apparently, the pause was a result of shock from the rare event of a passenger actually being pleasant in the morning. However, he got exactly what I was saying.

This week, in mid-April 2015, we lucky inhabitants of England had our first taste of summer. Temperatures made it consistently into the 20’s (Celsius) and sunshine has abounded for two whole days! I know, I know, it hardly sounds exciting to those of you reading this in other countries which are not climate challenged, but trust me it’s a big deal over here!

TP28 - ice creamIt isn’t just a matter of the British weather obsession, although it certainly does give us something to talk about. The sunshine actually changes people. Along with the radical switch to summer wardrobes in the certain knowledge that this attire will be woefully inadequate in just a couple of days when temperatures plunge again, there are smiles as well as sunglasses everywhere. Even the nagging freight train of Election campaigning from predictable politicians with nothing new to say, cannot bring us down.

For these two days the people of Britain will rejoice even though we know in our heart of hearts that:

  • A subset of people will still be wearing flip-flops next week when it’s 10 degrees and raining
  • We will be planning barbeques for the weekend in the face of every single legitimate source of weather information telling us that this will be all over way before then and that they will be correct
  • Our sudden desire to holiday in the UK this year instead of our usual excursion to the Spanish islands is as short-lived as this break in the clouds
  • A 99 ice cream cone for lunch is not sustainable as midday nutrition
  • Work is not like primary school and unlike your teacher, your boss is unlikely to suggest that you and your colleagues take your chairs outside and work in a circle on the nearest playing field or park.

TP28 last chance parkI popped out for a sandwich at lunchtime and stood in an extra long queue in Marks and Spencer (given the world and his wife have established this as the Mecca of picnic food purveyors) and spotted a gentleman in his 50’s standing outside, quite still, face up, eyes closed. He was in the midst of a bustling crowd of people, still as a statue, as if in those minutes of stillness, he could somehow absorb the sunshine like a sponge and carry it with him for the rest of the day. I couldn’t help thinking that his ultraviolet flooded meditation might be brought to a sudden and unpleasant conclusion by a distracted woman loosely carrying an iced mocha-chino and not looking where she was going, but the collision was narrowly averted. Such are the lengths to which we will go to try and capture this rare and precious commodity.

So was this a different country? Yes. At least until tomorrow. Then we will steel ourselves against the grey skies and dream of when the next sun-soaked 8 hours will come. Next week or next year?

Perhaps that’s what makes us who we are.

TP

I don’t know whether it happens in other countries which enjoy the possibility of snow, but in the UK, the media hysteria that surrounds the prediction and arrival of snowfall is starting to drive me nuts!

I accept that there is unpredictability to snowfall in countries like this as opposed to the ‘Canadas’ and ‘Swedens’ of the world that expect it as the norm, but really – is it worthy of the media circus we now experience? Perhaps it’s a combination of the British obsession with the weather, combined with the uncertainty of its arrival that has given birth to this annoying state of affairs. However, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t always like this.

No doubt the prophets of climate doom will be happy with the extra press and will be trying to convince us on the back of this icy spell, that radical climate shifts are becoming more common. I don’t subscribe to that theory on the basis that even within my lifetime there have been variances that are too random to be considered a trend. In the grand scheme of Earth’s history – falling snow for three consecutive years in the UK does not a climate apocalypse make!

As a child I remember that snow was not a certainty, but simply showed its face from time to time. I recall not being able to cycle to school on such days and instead having to trudge through the snow on my one and half mile journey to classes. Based on the turnout of teachers and pupils, we would sometimes head home a couple of hours later, but this was seen as an uncommon and unavoidable ‘blip’ in school routine. It was of course a welcome chance for us pupils to pelt each other with snow balls in a brutal way all the way home before spending the remainder of the day trying to make a snowman. Unfortunately now, the advent of e-mail and phone text have made it all too easy for schools to close their doors for ‘snow days’ at the merest suggestion of a flurry, let alone a flake landing on the playground.

Since the birth of radio and then television, we have been blessed with weather forecasts. They are not always completely accurate, but they largely do what they set out to do by preparing us for tomorrow’s elements. Why then, when it snows, do we also need half the news bulletins devoted to the weather and sometimes even a ‘special’ extra evening show to let us know how badly we’ve coped with it! We must surely be a laughing stock to the Scandinavians who manage to function quite routinely for half the year at sub-zero temperatures!

I suppose what gets my goat the most, is that we used to complain about how ill prepared we had been for snow and how we needed to get better at this. Now the media prefers to devote its resources to heralding a new belt of snow as an oncoming ‘natural disaster’, based firmly on the assumption that we will NEVER be good at coping with it.

In the far flung reaches of the UK or its more challenging terrain, I concede there may be cause for concern, but for most of us, would you please just look outside your window? If the snow is too deep to travel, then don’t! If the weather forecast says that if you go out now, you might have trouble getting back – then don’t go! With well considered exceptions – this is a pretty good policy that does not need extensive news coverage or screaming panic-driven headlines. A half decent weather forecast will tell you when it might be good to stock the larders and hunker down. Heaven knows we are receiving that basic kind of information through so many personal electronic devices these days that it’s pretty hard to miss.

So, stay warm my friends, but don’t succumb to the media hysteria. If the recession really is going to deepen because we have a cold snap for a couple of weeks in January, then we clearly have a lot more to worry about than just snow!

The question I leave you with is this…

Does the snow really come more often than it used to or does common sense come much less?

TP

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