After living through the last snow storm in Brighton late last year, I have come to realise the brutal truth about the way in which this city operates when faced with the white stuff: stop everything. Shut it down, close the doors, lock up, go home. Okay, I realise that snow is not a regular occurrence in England ... or at least it hasn't been for years. But what I've learned about the way the local government looks at the situation is truly shocking. There is a mentality of negligence to avoid charges of negligence. Does that make sense? I thought not.
Apparently, the city looks the other way when it comes to roads that aren't necessary to salt, grit, and plow. Yes, I've heard that there are the resources and there is the ability, but not the will. Since we live in a sue-each-other society, it is alleged that city councils risk being sued if they clear a walkway and someone slips on it later. That would be "negligence" on the part of the council. So what is their answer? Don't touch it. Move on. Look away. If they don't touch it, they can't be negligent. So negligence solves that problem. Job done!
Buses. Brighton & Hove buses were ordered by the police not to run. The decision was made to reduce traffic. Yeah, that'll work. Now all those bus commuters are in their cars. Just dandy. When the buses do run, they run with all-season tyres without chains or any sort of winter protection. One commuter bus had chains but later put a notice on the website saying, "We have found out they snap on clear roads." First of all, no they don't. Second of all, they do if you're speeding.
Since it looks like this is going to be a regular occurrence in the UK from now on (something to do with climate change and so on), I thought I'd compile a list of 5 helpful tips for surviving heavy snow, even if you can't gain access to a hot Double Double for comfort.
1) If you're a driver, always always always have a set of winter tyres that can be fitted around November. Alternatively, and this is my personal choice, purchase chains that properly fit your car's tyres. It's an investment, but it's so important, and it'll literally dig you out of a mess. Once you get the hang of it, they take about five minutes to put on and about a second to take off. Plus it'll make you feel like you're driving a military tank. Mine cost me $75 in Canada which is about 40 quid.
2) Also for drivers, drive slooooowly. I can't stress it enough. All over the news there are cars being pushed out of the snow with tyres spinning a hundred times per second. Slow is the key. You want to give those tyres some time to get a grip on the stuff. If the speed limit is 30, go 8 or 10. If the speed limit is 70 on a semi-cleared motorway, go 25. Seriously. You can feel when you're pushing it to the limit and when you get to that moment, slow down by taking your foot off the gas pedal. Don't brake. You should have enough room in front of you to just take your foot off the gas pedal, push in the clutch, and your car should stop where it needs to. You might have to just slightly apply the brake to stop completely. If you brake on snow, your tyres will lose traction and your car is likely to go sideways. That is cool when you're in the Batmobile, but not so cool in your Ford Focus.
3) If you're a walker, get some proper footwear. Wellington boots will do, but snow boots are even better because they protect against the cold as well as moisture (none of this Uggs stuff). Alternatively, you could buy some Yaktrax. Chains for your feet! Woo hoo! If you don't have winter footwear, a good old Canadian tip is to put a plastic bag around your feet after your socks are on (several socks). That'll keep the moisture out and your multiple layers of socks will keep you warm.
3) Be a good neighbour! I know we like to go from our little private houses into our little private cars and go on our merry little way, but when something happens that we're not used to, we should be helping each other out! Smile, say hello to people, ask if they need a hand. You'd want them to help you if you needed it, wouldn't you? In Canada, it's actually illegal not to shovel the walkway in front of your property. It's not the city's job at all. If you have an elderly neighbour who can't physically do it themselves, you have to team with your neighbours to shovel their walkway too. If you have the time and the physicality, do you really need a law to tell you? We're not useless, we don't need the city to do it for us. "Gedd'r Done!"
4) Predicting the weather. Big snow flakes means its warmer; small snowflakes means it's colder. If the flakes are small, don't go out. If they're big, it might stop soon... unless of course they get smaller again. ;)
5) Stay inside. Work is really not that important (unless of course you're desperate for that day's pay). Stay home if it's dangerous. Don't get yourself to the train station only to find the trains aren't running and you can't get back home. Have yourself a cup of tea and wait until it's safe. Don't be a hero. Remember the Batmobile? You don't have one!
And finally ... enjoy it! Sit down with your family or friends or neighbours, cosy up in some handmade Folksy stuff, make a cup of hot cocoa (1 tsp cocoa, 1 tsp sugar, a little cold water, mix into paste, pour hot water/milk, stir), have a roast, take some photos of the scenery, make snow angels and igloos, and have fun! It only happens once a year, right?