After all that wimpish fretting about snow casting doubt on my new-year trip to France, the journey turned out to be uneventful, unless torrential rain in Normandy counts as an event.It did become rather cold but this was wrap-scarf-around-your-neck cold, nowhere near nippy enough to serve as a dress rehearsal for what awaited my return to the UK.
A northern English childhood should have prepared me better for snowy winters than for the sizzling Gulf heat. Yet I recall no real difficulty in adjusting to the need to move smartly between different air-conditioned environments (flat, car, office, hotel) in Abu Dhabi. It is remarkable how eight months of pleasant weather can make up for the extreme heat and humidity of summer.So what was on my mind as I dug a frozen hand into my luggage for a fourth layer of clothing at Preston, Lancashire while waiting for the cross-Pennines train that would take me to an even chillier spot? I was reminiscing fondly about extreme heat and humidity.
If Preston station felt crowded, that may have been because Virgin had decided its Scotland-bound train, on which I had travelled from London, could safely proceed no farther. The extra huddles were of disgruntled passengers hoping to squeeze onto a train taking a different route. I suppose I shall never know whether the four people nearest to me until Preston reached a family funeral on the Scottish borders.
By the time I arrived at my own destination, the town of Burnley, snow was lying shin-deep and climbing kneewards. I began to curse excessive devotion to duty; the people I'd arranged to meet called to say they had abandoned efforts to cover much shorter distances to join me.With no sign of my booked cab, I sheltered from the blizzard in a mechanic's workshop. But Mohammad, the taxi driver, hadn't forgotten me; he'd simply been unable to enter the station car park, and unwilling to block the passable main road by stopping to wait. And he conscientiously returned once assured my train had made it.
Mohammad was cheerful, laughing off the conditions and brushing aside questions about how long his employers would be able to maintain a service.As the messages from his controller grew gloomier, he kept on smiling, unfussily negotiating roads that seemed treacherous to a passenger's eye and sighing at warnings about the hilly roads to be avoided because lorries were getting stuck. His sole concession to the changed circumstances of getting around was to drop off and pick up at the entrances to snow-covered streets and car parks rather than risk not being able to get out again.
After trudging through the Lancashire snow for a day or more, it was back once again to the soft south. At least I'd be warm again. No such luck. On television, the snow flakes fluttering around London-based reporters' faces were not journalistic props. "Be careful when you reach London," said my wife. "We've got it now and our street is an ice rink."@Email:firstname.lastname@example.org