January 19, 2013 by anelim
On 17 January, on a Lufthansa flight to Birmingham, I left a warm Berlin. A comfortable -3’C, a splatter of somewhat melted snow (well cleaned on the roads and cycling paths, 5-10 cm elsewhere), no wind, and intermittent sunshine. All in all, wonderful weather for January – especially compared to the several days of high -7’C, low -11’C, which we had before Christmas. I didn’t even wear a proper hat: just one of those woollen headbands that keep your ears warm and let your ponytail swing (for the record, mine is precisely 25cm long, so it swings pretty well, according to one the Ignobel prize winners).
I arrive to a panic-ridden Birmingham airport. +1’C. Some very light and pretty snow hovering in the air. The roads and fields look like cakes ever so slightly dusted with sugar. I walk out from the airport not even wearing my head gear, gloves, or scarf, slightly surprised by the unusually cool weather, but glad that I’ve gauged my travelling clothes right, and that it’s considerably milder than Berlin has been on average in the last two months.
But I seem to be the only gleeful person in the Midlands and beyond. The radio spits out news about amber and red weather alerts all over the country. Schools are closed. Villages are buried in a blizzard, farms are covered in a blanket of snow. Motorways in a gridlock, it takes an hour to drive from Birmingham Airport to a town 15 miles away. My friend calls me and tries to dissuade me from driving all the way to Luton Airport. Temperatures – oh, gods! – below zero degrees Centigrade are expected for the next couple of days. Sort of like in that old joke, Fog in Channel, continent cut off, only this time no one cares for the continent because everyone is scared stiff by the discovery of some unidentified scary white dust made of frozen water on their patio. Perhaps the Warwick graduation next week will be even more of a disaster than it usually is. Perhaps no one will turn up and the graduation hall will be empty as the speaker struggles to pronounce all 22 letters of my flamboyant Slavic name.
The next morning, a concerned voice from the car rental company kindly awakes me at 9am to inquire whether I still wish to hire the car I booked, ‘due to the severe weather conditions’. Weather or no weather, I still need to pick up my parents from the airport! If the airport is open, that is. If it’s good enough for a National Express bus, it’s good enough for me in a car! I hang up the phone, look up the news, and find out that buses don’t run, doctors miss appointments, Tesco has run out of milk and bread, some airports are closed, and most boroughs have run out of grit and salt. Panic begins to creep into my soul. Perhaps I’m the reckless one, and everybody else is rightly worried? Perhaps I should have cancelled that car rental? This thought revisits me 2h later, when I’m trying not to think of running water, not think of running water, whilst spending exactly 85 minutes driving the 7.5 mile stretch between the car rental and home. At 6 mph, I callously drive past desperate people hitching rides to the neighbouring towns along all big roads around Warwick university. I illegally pick up my mobile after the 4th missed international call, to find out my parents have missed their flight, so I didn’t have to pick them up. No, there was no snow in their country. They just missed it. They’re hopefully arriving on the next available flight on Monday 21st, 4 hours after my rental ends. Ah well. At least everyone is alive and well (and the new last-minute tickets didn’t cost a fortune. Presumably because no one wants to fly into a country covered with an inch of snow).
Did I mention that the central heating/hot water in my fiance’s flat has also broken down? Just a small detail in the large snowy picture. The repair guy can’t come because someone has driven into his van this morning – due to the snow. I’m beginning to realise that Brits may have real grounds for being scared of the snow. It’s not the snow’s fault, but all the other stupid folks’ fault. It’s a classic self-fulfilling prophecy.
The last bit of news to complete the snowy picture: the martial arts weekend in which my fiance was supposed to be involved, and because of which I had to hire a second car, has also fallen through. The university sports centre is closed due to understaffing. Good bye, months of organising! The Swiss guest teacher who had to come for the seminar was informed minutes before boarding her flight (calm weather, a sprightly -6 and just 10 cm of snow there, Google tells me). Our two cars are now parked quietly in the street with nowhere to go and no responsibilities for the coming weekend. Ah well. There might be no milk for tomorrow’s tea in the fridge, but a snow fight is the only item on the agenda for tomorrow!
Update: Central heating fixed. Weekend may begin!