Saturday, 18 December 2010

Snow every day, please!

Before I begin, let me make it clear that I like to be warm. I don't enjoy seeing my breath when I wake up, having to gather wood every hour to keep the fire going, and scraping ice of my car's windscreen before I drive anywhere - but please, let it snow every day in England.

The snow brings out the best in the English. It makes them funny, helpful, and brings out the "make do" "Dunkirk" spirit of legend.

The English are a friendly lot, more or less, but not friendly like folks back home in Canada. The English will say "hello" and talk about the weather, and will make polite conversation (unlike some of their European neighbours) but in general are more subdued in their "friendliness" than Canadians.

This all changes, though, when you add a few inches of snow - hell, a few centimetres of snow - to their environs. All of a sudden, perfect strangers and giving you advice on the best road to take to the nearest village, pushing your car when you struggle to go up a hill, and generally "mucking in".

Today, I decided to make the 5 mile trip to the nearest town with a supermarket. It had been snowing heavily -by both Canadian and English standards - for an hour or so, but having learned to drive in a country where a foot of snow wouldn't stop me getting where I wanted to go, I headed off to pick up what we needed for the weekend.

Passing through Marsworth, near where we are moored, I found on the bridge, people directing traffic - gesturing when to pass over the one laned bridge, and when to wait for a car coming the other way. A few miles further, where a lorry had gotten stuck on the bridge, people were out of their cars trying to push it to get it started again.

To a Canadian reading this, you might think "what's the big deal about going over a bridge?" but most of the bridges where I am now were built hundreds of years ago and designed to deal with horses and walkers - not cars. They rise at a sharp gradient - and being single laned and rising sharply, when you approach them, you can't see if someone is coming the other way and will run into you as you pass over the crest of the bridge.

As the bridge into the town was blocked by the lorry, I turned around and decided to go back to the boat for a cup of tea before setting off to the town on a different route. When I got back to Marsworth, I found the impromtu traffic directors had "upped their game" and had found a piece of carpet, which they laid across the road to give cars extra traction when trying to get over the bridge. These were the same people who would barely say hello to you, let alone have a conversation with you, on a day when it was sunny and fine -but here they were, showing you where to stop on the carpet, and then, when you started off, giving your car an extra push.

I'm lucky to know, more or less, how to drive in snow - but was almost tempted to feign ignorance simply because random strangers were so keen to help me.

I know it disrupts travel, causes delays, and makes my boat a helluvalot colder- but for all the goodwill on display today - I'd love it to keep snowing straight on through until June.

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