Thursday, January 07, 2010

In his Master's Steps He Trod


We stopped off in the UK 17 years ago on our way to America and we liked it so much we stayed. The people are friendly, the countryside pretty and the weather ... not as bad as we had been led to believe.

Until now.

The third Big Freeze in 12 months, the biggest of the three, set in two days ago. Normally if we have an inch of snow in a year it's a lot. On Tuesday evening we had 9 inches. I think we have two snow ploughs in England so we are snowed in for the duration.

But my wife and I are made of Stern Stuff so at 7 o'clock on Wednesday morning we left home in moon boots to walk to the railway station. For completeness I should emphasise we were also wearing a good deal of other clothes. The snow came up to our calves and I have to say it is at the very least disconcerting walking through snow that deep.

Actually it's bloody difficult.

You don't really know how far to put down each foot and then when you pick it up you have to raise it above the level of the snow to move on to the next step. I realised then why good King Wenleslas's page stepped in his footprints: not so much for the warmth as the fact that it's a lot easier. Colleen and I struggled manfully on (in her case womanfully), taking turns leading, until eventually we gave up, exhausted, at the top of the drive.

That's where I took the photograph of the neighbour's house, cars and rubbish bin. Due to the previous big freeze, our bin-collections are way behind. Indeed, one of our binmen broke his wrist sliding on ice about a week ago. We're clearly going to end up way behind in collections for the rest of the month.

We trudged to the supermarket a few hours later and this was a big mistake. It made my wife feel guilty that she had not made it to the train earlier so the following day we did walk through the compacted snow to the station. Colleen got on the train which broke down 3 miles up the track. There was some kind of electrical fault which meant it not only broke down but had no heating. After a while they managed to get the train going and she arrived at the office an hour late, only to find the office almost completely empty. Not wanting to get delayed on the way home in the dark, she left the office early only to find many trains had been cancelled, so she waited 90 minutes on the cold Waterloo Station platform before one did arise. Travel time, 6 hours: office time, 5.

In the mean time, I had decided to be a good citizen and try digging out our street.

I must have been mad. I don't have a snow shovel, just a garden one so after 30 minutes of effort I had managed to clear about 5 square yards. Mind you, they were perfectly cleared because after I had shovelled off the snow I used the yard broom to sweep away the traces. I did some calculations and reckoned that if my younger son and I spelled each other and did 6 hours a day we would have a small but sufficient channel in the road cleared after 3 days, which given we're not expecting a thaw for a week would be pretty good.

Then some guy came by driving one of these things. "Over here!" called my neighbour.

These are very good at moving snow and in three minutes he had reduced the covering of snow from 9" to about 1/2". He had also obliterated my hard work. Under my breath I thanked and cursed him simultaneously.

The only problem is that the treads of his tyres have crushed the small remaining bits of snow into snice and getting rid of that last 1/2" is ... not easy. I tried brushing vigorously with the yard brush and chipping away with the shovel and got about 4 yards done before I gave up.

My dearly beloved has just put a bowl of hot porridge on the table, so I will retreat to that and contemplate the future.

1 comment:

cathryngrant said...

The photographs are beautiful, and the story of your travels is so entertaining, but I'm very glad to be living in California right now.