The weather is a trivial subject that, at least twice a day, everybody acknowledges. In fact, if you ever talk to a stranger in a queue or on a bus, it is almost guaranteed that there will be a few mundane remarks about the big grey cloud overhead.
Being an English girl in Canada during the winter has been somewhat entertaining. First of all, people have generally assumed that when it gets to around two or three degrees, I am going to start shivering uncontrollably. This, of course, isn’t true. In England we deal with this kind of weather for about 363 days of the year, plus it is always raining, so generally you feel a lot colder than it is outside. So cold, yes, the English can deal with it. The rain? There is no one better to throw a bucket of water at. But the snow? This is something the English are so astonishingly bad at dealing with it is embarrassing.
My conversations with strangers in a queue or on a bus have recently involved an absolute stranger laughing at what England does when we get a flurry of snow.
Since I was a young child, I have yearned for the two or three days a year (maybe even a week if I’m lucky) that my hometown was dusted with about one centimetre of fluff. Because we all know that the very second the local news sends out a “weather warning”— “BE AWARE! DON’T GO OUTSIDE. THREE SNOWFLAKES ARE EXPECTED TO FALL”— everything will close. The trains refuse to run. Drivers unexpectedly find themselves in a ditch because they “couldn’t see out of the window” from the ‘blizzard’, and schools, universities, shops (and everything else) close across the country in the fear of someone slipping on a snowflake. This really isn’t an exaggeration.
The snow that fell over the UK last week proved no different. Friends haven’t been to university; their exams have been cancelled. Professors couldn’t possibly face the dangerous roads to turn up for a mere lecture.
Peterborough’s approach seems to be more about ignoring the life-threatening snow and ice to just get on with things as if it were a normal day. I mean, here it is a normal day. But having to go to university when there are snowball fights to be had and snowmen to build seems somewhat abnormal to a naïve English girl.
I think the main reason this attitude prevails is because of the vehicles you drive. The first thing I noticed on my ‘long’ (it was long for me ok – ‘long’ in England is like a thirty minute drive into the city) trip to Halliburton for TIP Camp was how many trucks there were. That size vehicle is what is used to transport a family of fifteen in the UK.
Now, I realise why you have them. It is so that life can proceed in any weather. I mean, I would feel comfortable going at any speed, in any weather, in a vehicle that looks like it could take on a whale. In England people generally drive a small car, with three doors that tend to be the width of a piece of tracing paper. What’s more, not only do we drive these tiny vehicles (that couldn’t take on a fly let alone a whale), but when it snows people have a habit of refusing to shift the snow from their car before taking it out on the road.
Recently the Daily Mail reported an elderly woman who had taken her Nissan Micra out for a spin (quintessential old-person’s car, usually sky blue in colour. Most drivers will avoid them on the road because you know the owner is old and shouldn’t really be driving anymore) without removing the snow from even her windscreen. No wonder they end up in ditches.
Recently I have seen Tweets and Facebook messages about the lack of snow shifting on the roads and sidewalks in Peterborough. Trust me, you’ve got it good. I don’t think those machines and vehicles even exist in England. We have to face the ice alone.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not complaining about how England deals with its pathetic weather. Because when you reach university, snow days mean going outside at about one in the afternoon after a sleep-in, building a snow-penis or a snow-woman with big boobs, and going to the pub to drink and eat to your heart’s content, with no fear whatsoever of the work you have due in the next day because schools and universities will inevitably be closed.