02 February 2009
Call that snow? No, a 'snow event'
Snow? Call this snow? I can hear Geoff Boycott now: In Yorkshire we call this frost! That's no excuse for skiving off work!
All this is, according to the BBC weather team, a 'Snow Event'.
Or, as we used to call it, 'Snow'.
(Perhaps this neologistic tautology is a bit like 'Binge Drinking', which we used to call 'Drinking'.)
Well, whatever, London was blanketed by white overnight. Our garden looked like the Perry Como Christmas Special this morning, with a foot of fat fluffy stuff on everything. There was that delicious, velvety quiet.
The streets round our house were one mighty, shin-deep squeaking duvet. Smothered cars lay neglected, giant cottage loaves risen out of their tins. As I walked my bike round to the main road, the wheels creaked like bedsit floorboards.
Usually, my route up to the British Library involves back-streets, lanes, alleys and cut-throughs. It quickly became obvious that this was a bad idea. They all had that nightmare surface of snow compressed by just one or two vehicles into a hardpack of ice. Applying brakes turned my bike into a vertical sled.
Where I could, I took main roads. Waterloo Bridge and Southampton Row were just about OK, with grooves channelled out by cars as if imitating a cross-country skiing piste. Anywhere where the traffic thinned, such as the three-sides-of-a-square detour round Russell Square, you were in ice-hockey territory.
At junctions there was a lot of tricky stuff that might have delighted Robin Cousins but was scary for cyclists. Euston Road was just slushy, but the traffic close up on one side of you and the bank of unploughed snow on the other made for an unpleasant experience.
There was little traffic. Most noticeable was the absence of buses, all cancelled because of the Snow Event, and the extra waves of pedestrians, dark matchstick figures soft-shoe-shuffling their way along the bleached pavements like extras in a Lowry painting.
(See bigger version of picture on right)
Most vehicles were driving reasonably sensibly. Even the taxis. A few, though, must have been absent in science lessons when they did coefficient of friction, because they hadn't twigged that this ice stuff is quite slippery - icy, in fact - and offers all the purchase of a Teflon wok. I saw at least three cars brake, only to slide on gently a few feet over the junction with wheels locked.
I ended up walking a lot of the way; a journey that normally takes 25-30 minutes took me just on an hour.
Still, when I trooped into the staff car park, I saw to my delight that I was the only person daft enough to have cycled in. (There were other bikes, but they'd obviously been left over the weekend.) Yes, they're my footprints and tyre tracks in that picture.
But I can be pleased that, having battled in to work, I can make sure the website is updated. With the news that the Reading Rooms are closed and that there's no hot food - even in the staff canteen. Oh...
We're promised another Snow Event tonight. Which sounds rather fun, actually - you rather imagine skating rinks, snowman contests, and stalls selling mulled wine. Maybe I'll leave the mulled wine until I'm safely home, though.