Since the beginning of the week, everyone has been full of the usual mutterings about how the country grinds to a halt the moment we see a couple of flakes of snow – although, according to news reports this is the worst snow the South East has seen since 1991.
Monday was bad enough, with all manner of travel problems: school closures, accident-laden roads, major disruptions to public transport, and the chaos at Heathrow – one runway was closed all day, the other for over an hour – which led to nearly 800 flight being cancelled. All in all, I was quite relieved to have already booked the day off as holiday, even if my planned post-Super Bowl lie-in and shopping trip had to be abandoned.
But after things had started to get back to normal over the past two days, we had another snowfall overnight – about two inches’ worth in Thatcham – and, having spent yesterday at home, I thought I’d try to get into work, a drive of nearly 25 miles which involves a combination of sloping, untreated roads to get out of our estate, the A4, the M4 and then some smaller roads to get to the office.
I should have known better.
I encountered my first problem within 50 yards. To get out of our road, you have to negotiate a small roundabout, the approach to which is on a mild incline. With my rear-wheel drive car, I couldn’t generate enough traction from a standing start to climb the slope, and eventually had to back up and take a run-up at it which owed more to blind faith than judgement. I had to use the same technique to escape the T-junction to get out onto the main road, and after much slow-motion sliding through the grey, icy slush, I opted for discretion as the better part of valour and decided to terminate my non-essential drive to work there and then.
However, that wasn’t the end of it. Having made it back to our close, you have to turn right and negotiate a moderately steep slope to return to our driveway. I executed the turn with due caution, and promptly ground to a tractionless halt, rear wheels spinning hopelessly on the icy, compacted snow, a mere 30 yards from home. It took the help of a couple of neighbours, much shovelling and five stop-start attempts – all but the last ending with my rear wheels attempting a pirouette – to climb the slope before the car finally returned to its resting place, from which I now realise it should never have left.
And there we have it: the perfect example of why deciding not to attempt a non-essential journey in such adverse conditions is more sensible than pathetic. Chances are I would probably have made it into work OK – although that’s by no means certain given that the M4 is apparently snow-covered in places between here and Bracknell – but with the temperature forecast to remain close to freezing for the rest of the day, there’s no knowing how treacherous the roads might be by the end of the day. This is how people end up sleeping in their cars overnight.
Work’s important – but it’s not that important.