That White Stuff, A Friday Story
by Mike Rooth
By and large, it can be said that the English don't like Snow. It is Not What They Are Used To. The Scots manage to make money out of theirs (they get more of it), the Welsh just get wet, but to the English it causes total confusion. Our excuse, of course, is that we never get enough of it to make it pay, its generally wet stuff, and therefore useless, and we can never guarantee getting any at all. So a couple of inches stops the country. In Land Rover terms, it means all those yuppy twerps that have spent the rest of the year carving you up and making rude gestures, suddenly become like little ducklings who wont leave Mummy even when the road is relatively clear. Sometimes, however we do get a fair bit. The year in question, oh, five or six ago now was a beauty. We woke up in the morning, late Nov early Dec to find the light had that peculiar brightness to it. It was accompanied by some most odd sounds. A sort of long drawn out creeee-ak, and a soft "whuump". It had, and still was, snowing. In fact, it had put down a good foot or so, and was still falling. And how. There was very little wind, just enough to pile the damned stuff up against the back door. Further investigation (usually called switching the kettle on) revealed that we had no power, either. No big deal, we had gas fires and a gas cooker. BUT. the horse had to be attended to. Turned out that all this white stuff had been chucked down in about four or five hours, where usually such an accumulation would have taken about twenty four to drop. The further north you went, the more they had had. In true phlegmatic English style, on with the wellies, and fire up the Old Heap. First problem, getting it out of the driveway. 4WD needed (well, low box actually) but my gates have a cross bar supporting the posts, and the Land Rover only just clears at the best of times, so to avoid taking the croates. This got me wet, and pissed orf. However, still wet and pissed orf, she was backed out. It was at this stage that the "creak/whoomf" materialized itself as the lilac tree which had shed one of its main boughs. All Over The Footpath (sidewalk). "Oh,bugger the bloody thing, leave it" says I ."Not so" quoth the Domestic Authority. "Must be cleared before we depart hence". "What for?" ses I. "In case someone falls over it" comes the reply. "Well,let the silly bastards fall over it then, should look where they're going". "They won't and we could be liable". Oh shit. All this and NO BREAKFAST YET. Branch cleared, by virtue of dragging it into the front garden, where it bunged up the path to the front door. Apparently the postman didn't count. Off we go busily clearing the snow off the windshield as best we could. Like, you leave the wipers on, and the heater (useless bloody thing), until you are peering through a vertical tank slit, then stop, and sweep it off and start again. No traffic about. Not moving, anyway. Wimps! All is well, until we reach the approach to the yard wherein the horse is (hopefully) waiting. Now this is not the yard wherein she currently waiteth but another, much inferior place. The approach road consists of negotiating a steep canal humpback bridge, a right angle left turn off it, and a quarter mile narrow track to the yard gates. Easy? Well, with the canal on one side of you, and a twenty foot deep drainage ditch the other, and the whole not much wider than the Land Rover, plus drifted snow obscuring both ditch and canal, er.. no, not easy. "Walk" says the D.A. "Mmmm" says I, whilst examining two parallel depressions in the snow, and taking swift stock of the cars parked willy-nilly, belonging to other owners. One missing, just as I thought, Mrs Pringle's SIII Diesel (then, not now). "Look, if Pat can make it, so can I". Well, you've got to, haven't you? Now, in truth, Pat nothing will ever go wrong. I suspect it heathen bravery, but to be fair, there is a great deal of skill involved as well, to which she will not admit. Low second, off we go. The D.A, I noticed, clutching tightly at the seat with both hands. Burst triumphantly into the yard minutes later, to many jaws dropped in amazement. The snow, of course had drifted into the stables,which pointed upwind for snow, backs to the prevailing wind, which was in the opposite direction. Wet bedding, shivering animals, utter misery. There was in effect little that could be done (once we'd shoveled the doors open) but change the soaked stable rugs for dry water proof felt lined canvas ones, pile dry bedding on top of the wet, administer food and hay. A warm bran mash would have helped, but that yard never did have any power other than for lighting. Back home. Up the lane, 2WD high range this time. A mile further on... traffic jam. Some turd in a Ford Sierra, coming out of a side road onto an uphill section had got himself stuck. Sales type. Wonderful! I sat there for five minutes waiting for him to get some forward movement, but mother than great clouds of flying shit, there didn't seem to be much action. "Sod this for a game of soldiers, I want my breakfast". Low third, pull out into the middle of the road, where the snow lay piled up, and rumble past assorted punters all sitting there wondering how they were ever going to get moving again on an uphill road.If looks could kill! They were really pissed off! Me, I just waved. Didn't help, but made me feel better. I stopped to offer the Ford Fart a tow, but, biiig man, he could manage, so we shoveled snow from under his tyres, and left the twerp to it. While at the stable yard, I had established that Pat (Of SIII fame), was mucking out at about 5:30 that morning, and had seen a bright green flash over the next field, and then nothing, 'cos all the lights had gone out. Tuought down the main electricity cable into the town, diverted, and erected only six monw. Further, my diesel state was parlous, to say the least. I had established that Leicester, seven miles away did have power,so got onto a mate, and asked him to bring a couple of gallons with him in a can. To work, that is. Where I shortly established the fact that we build buildings these days that it is impossible to see in without artificial light. what's more important, you cant boil a kettle. And least important of all,you can't run a mainframe minus juice. Everybody go home! Now not only was my fuel state dodgy, alleviated a little by the two gallon can, but the booze state was dire. WE HAD RUN OUT!! However, the horseclan telephone network was working as usual, and it appeared that the local Sainsbury's, had a quick thinking manager, who had got a generator online sharpish. It was now fairly late on in the afternoon, so we set off full of hope, to replenish the booze supply.
The juice took four days to restore, and since everyone had stocked up freezers for Christmas (us included) everyone ate very well. But there were vehicles stuck on car parks for the entire period because the barriers were down and they couldn't get off, and shops moaned their heads off 'cos the tills wouldn't work, so they could do no business. One local filling station got a genny going, by virtue of the fact it was right next door to a plant hire place. So the fuel situation was alleviated. Like I say, It's Not What We Are Used To!
Reprinted from the OVLR Newsletter, December 1996