It’s taken its time in reaching us but at last the moment has arrived. The time of trial is upon us. There had been the usual rumours of course, and hints of when and where it would strike. Yet, as with all such things, it is not until we see it with our eyes and hear it with our own ears that we take it to be true. Well, this morning I heard the chilling phrase that signalled the waiting was over – “Bitterly cold.”
Yes, Snow-Phobia is on its way to the United Kingdom. Or, to be more precise, snow. Some snow is probably going to fall on the United Kingdom at some point tonight.
Sorry, that’s it. If you were expecting something a bit more dramatic then I had better explain.
You see, those of you living on the continent, or anywhere slightly to the North of our fair isle have probably already had snow for quite a while, lots of it, and have been quietly and diligently dealing with any problems that it might have caused you.
But that’s not the way we do things here in the U.K. For I’m afraid that we, as a nation, suffer from what I can only describe as ‘Snow-Phobia’. This debilitating condition means that any mention of snow actually daring to settle onto a place in the U.K. is met with something that, at its best, can be raised to hysteria.
You might be forgiven for thinking that snow would be a commonplace yearly occurrence, especially given our geographical position and climate. And you would be right.
By some strange quirk of nationality however, the average U.K. citizen doesn’t see things that way. The appearance of snow on our collective radar is always met with a mixture of shock and alarm. “Snow? Did he just say snow? Well, I never saw that coming at this time of year, when it’s coldest, wettest and we’re still in the middle of winter, did you? What on earth are we going to do?”
O.k. so snow can be tricky stuff. But here’s where we go past the tipping point and sledge at full speed into the drift that is hysteria. Today’s predicted snow fall was…5cm.
When the words “Bitterly cold” assailed my snug ears this morning, still wrapped in what Northern Europeans would call a summer duvet, I knew the snow frenzy was about to begin. “Bitterly cold” is the BBC codeword for Snow-Phobia.
It is the adjective of choice for all the reporters and weather monitors who will already be rubbing their hands together – not with cold, but with joy at the thought of all that air-time and coverage their little piece of the media universe will be getting.
I will try and set the scene for those of you who don’t enjoy (yes, you have to laugh really) the U.K media Snow-fest. First we have the news report on the real snow over in Europe. This is just to soften us up. To make us paranoid. To show us what those nasty little flakes are capable of. So we have the number of deaths reported, we see the fishermen sat out on the ice in the middle of a frozen lake, the snowmobiles bringing emergency supplies to cut off villages and, a new one this year, images of the poor folk who have to literally dig coal out of a disused mine to heat their homes.
You see? That is what could happen when it snows. You have been warned.
Next up come the news reports from those intrepid reporters stationed at key points around the U.K. All wear the standard issue fluorescent jacket and grim face that tell us these are dangerous times. The content takes one of two forms. Either they are showing us the weather “Well, it’s not actually snowing here in Grimsby Heather, but it is bitterly cold,” or they are interviewing local council officials about their preparations. “Are you sure you’ve got enough salt for the roads. 20,000 tons. Hmm, will that be enough? How long will that last? How sure can you be?”
(This last piece works best if there are vehicles with flashing lights moving backwards and forward behind the reporter, accompanied by more people in fluorescent jackets purposefully carrying shovels.)
Then, at last, we have the main event. The weather reports in the U.K are longer, and contain more metrological information than anybody could ever possibly need to have in any one day. But we have two! One that covers the local area and one that covers the whole of the country. Ask any U.K. citizen about isobars, cold fronts, warm fronts, not to mention the effects of low and high pressure, and you will be amazed at their expert knowledge.
So, here it comes. A good two minute explanation of precisely where the snow is coming from. More than that, a little bit of science thrown in here and there to tell us how it has been formed too. ‘Know your enemy,’ is the message.
Again that worried frown as we are told that the Metrological center has issued a warning! An amber warning no less, which is displayed on the screen in a little amber trimmed box. The warning? There is some possibility of ‘Disruptive Snow’. Shit. That’s it. We’re done for. Yes, yes, we must watch the live updates on this channel to be sure that we are kept up to date. Thank you and God bless you BBC weatherperson.
Oh boy. I knew I should have bought that half price snow shovel at Sainsbury’s. Images of men fishing on frozen lakes and snow mobiles flash into my head. Where on earth am I going to find an abandoned coal mine around here?
But before I can begin making the list of supplies that I will need to defeat this white menace the weatherman carries on talking.
“Temperatures as low as 0 degrees.” That doesn’t sound too bad.
“Could last until the next morning.” One night?
“5 to 8 degrees on Sunday.” What’s this?
“Up to 5cm. Perhaps.” Perhaps? Perhaps? Oh now’s not a good time to go all vague on me Mr Weatherman!
“Oh, and only on high ground. In some parts of the U.K.”
So, someone living in a remote part of the U.K. highlands may have to pull on a pair of wellington boots at some point over the weekend if they go out in the middle of the night. Big deal.
My belated resolution for this year then, is to take all Snow-phobia with a pinch of salt. A big pinch. More than the local council would need even on two days of disruptive snow. I’m going to sit back and enjoy the media circus as it unfolds.
I think I shall award myself a small piece of chocolate for every utterance of “Bitterly cold.” I shall shout ‘Bravo!’ as the weather team take their bows. I shall shiver with each local reporter on the scene of a genuine snowflake being found settling on the ground.
And maybe I will pop along and see if they have any more of those snow shovels left. Just in case.
(c) S Dyer 2012
- Snow on the way at the weekend as temperatures plunge (menmedia.co.uk)
- Heavy Snow Due As Icy Snap Bites Britain (news.sky.com)
- Britain on alert after cold snap warning (thesun.co.uk)
- South Scotland put on snow alert (bbc.co.uk)
- 2 February Heavy Snow Fall and Cold Wave in Montalcino (montalcinoreport.com)
- Britain shivers at -11C as cold snap brings snow (telegraph.co.uk)