On Sunday night London experienced its biggest snowfall in eighteen years. It was something else. I knew that snow was on its way but never expected anything this dramatic. I’d spent the weekend in Paris with Monsieur’s parents. Then Monsieur stayed in Paris for an extra day and I returned home like a good girl so I could skip merrily along to work on Monday morning. On Eurostar, I had a total plonker sat next to me with his Very Large Laptop. Having had to disrupt his e-mail filing on two occasions to (a) go to the loo and (b) go to the bar I finally had this exchange with him:
“Please excuse me,”
(Harrumphing sounds. I notice he has a nasty pimple festering in the undergrowth of his fledgling beard)
“Perhaps if you’re going to be getting up all the time you should have booked an aisle seat.”
“Right. Perhaps you could take my window seat then and I’ll have YOUR aisle seat.”
“If you insist.” (More harrumphing sounds as he moves. It would seem there’s just no pleasing some Festering Pimpleheads)
After that, and having spent most of my day seated, I returned to the bar and wrote up my journal on one of the tiny standy uppy table things. Then I got sick of writing my journal but was still not keen to resume sitting next to Festering Pimple Man so I called Epic Mama. She told me it had been snowing in England, and sure enough, once we were through the Chunnel, there was a dusting of snow on all the platforms we passed through.
At St Pancras station my cab was waiting (I always order one to avoid the crowds and save my back from lugging suitcases up and down tube stairs) and huge snowflakes danced around us. By the time I got home, the snow had started to lay and a couple of hours later we’d had about three inches. The snow was blowing about like that of a snow globe collector on a shaking frenzy and parked cars were disappearing beneath the thick, white blanket. Those who braved the weather outside made fantastic crunching sounds as they trudged through the powder. Meanwhile, I watched from the window, absolutely mesmerised. Then, as the snowfall ceased for a while I pulled on my snow boots and grabbed my camcorder. This was historic. It had to be filmed.
I headed along our street, pointing the camera at bicycles covered in snow, (giggling about someone literally running the risk of freezing their backside off), recycling bins covered in snow, cars covered in snow, you name it covered in snow. Then I pushed open the gate to the communal garden and entered a veritable wonderland. Everything was a strange silvery colour and being alone in the garden so late at night, with pristine snow all around me and the mature trees looking like something from a Narnia film, made me want to laugh out loud. It was a feeling of complete exhilaration. Chatting away to the camera about what I was seeing, I filmed it all before realising that I was no longer alone; a couple of neighbours had joined me. We chatted briefly and one suggested I put my film onto the garden website but I don’t think I will because in one part I break into song. (That’s the sort of thing I do. At least I can say that this time it was from the Sound of Music, but I’ve been known to sing Wizard of Oz songs and worse whilst shopping. Ding dong the witch is dead…)
By the time I got home it was obvious that getting to work was going to be a nightmare. If a leaf deigns to flutter onto the tracks here, there are delays. What on earth would happen with several inches of snow? I called my trusty cab company but they wouldn’t take a booking, telling me to call again early the following morning, which I did. It was no help, though. They said the roads were bad and they weren’t taking bookings at all, so I left for work following my usual route and giving myself an extra half an hour to get there. That ought to do it! Or so I thought.
Outside, it was immediately obvious that more snow had fallen in the night and judging by the depth of roof frosting of some cars, we must have had about 7 inches in my neighbourhood. The streets were white with snow and it was deathly quiet. Only fools (or Festering Pimpleheads) would attempt to drive in this.
It took longer than usual to reach the tube and once there, it seemed that everything was okay but I knew it was too good to be true. Further along on the commute, at the station where I have to change, I walked all the way from one end to the other in order to pick up my link, only to find that the line had been suspended. I called work. No one answered so I left a voicemail. Plan B was to take the Circle and District lines and change onto the Piccadilly line somewhere but the C and D lines had also been suspended. Then DING! The big lightbulb in my brain went on. I could take a bus to work, but after standing at a strangely empty bus stop for a good ten minutes, a Royal Mail worker informed me that all buses had been cancelled in London due to the snow. This was turning into one of those films like 28 Days Later.
So, I couldn’t get a cab, my tube links were all down, there were no buses in London… I guess I could walk? But after a few minutes it became apparent that this was not an option. It takes me an hour and ten to walk to work on a fine day; in snow it would take forever.
Back at the station I went to its only operational tube line to try to get somewhere, anywhere that I could pick up a line towards work. To do this meant heading further away from my destination in order to hopefully move forwards. This, too, backfired. First, three trains went through before one arrived that we could fit onto. In the interim, a pushy wench with a suitably ski-jump-ish nose backed into me. Hard. Apparently my huff of discontent was audible to her. She flicked her head round faster than the Exorcist kid and stuck the ski jump in my face.
“What’s your issue, *****?” (Asterisk translation clue – she called me a female dog)
I stood my ground. “My issue is getting a body-blow from your back. Twice.”
But my adversary was having none of it.
“There’s no room here, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
All I noticed was a lack of apology. I reddened with unusual anger.
“How could I have noticed with your huge back in my face?”
The people around us were enjoying the display of tube rage, but just at that point, a train came that we were able to board, so the show ended just before we were tempted to pull clumps of hair out of each other’s heads.
The next part of the adventure was about to begin. I’ve been sardine on public transport before, but this was a whole different can of fish. When I finally extracted myself from said can to make a connection, I was greeted by a sign saying that that line, too, was down. Completely down. It was definitely time for some air so I surfaced and called my boss. He laughed at my predicament from the office, which happens to be a mere stone’s throw from his home. .
“Take the Jubilee Line to Green Park and change,” he suggested
“The Jubilee Line’s down.”
“Oh. Well, go shopping then!” He chortled, quite uncharacteristically. Perhaps the snow was affecting his thought processes? I couldn’t remember him ever telling me to ‘go shopping’ before.
“I’m nowhere near any decent shops and it’s too dangerous to walk.” I argued.
“Oh, well. Just go home then.” He offered.
I didn’t go immediately, thinking (mistakenly) that if I sat with a coffee for half an hour, then some of the tube issues might clear. Half an hour later, they were worse. I tried to get back on the line that had brought me here, to head home. It was now down. In spite of my best efforts to avoid walking, the only remaining transport option was my feet.
On my long, slow, trek back, I realised that most of the schools must have closed because there were kids everywhere, one little darling pelting his front door with snowballs, now smattered all over the finish. From the warmth of the flat I watched as the garden filled with families building snowmen and an igloo. The igloo took all day to make but was quite a success. Meanwhile, I’d been talking with a number of colleagues who’d also been struggling to get to work and then home. It would seem I wasn’t alone. In fact, only a quarter of our workforce had made it in. Our fine mayor, Boris Johnson, criticised people for not making it into work, calling it a ‘skive’. I say, if you want your city to operate in adverse weather conditions, Boris, how about using some of our taxes towards better equipping road and footpath-clearing equipment? The roads in my area of London haven’t been salted at all and the footpaths are treacherous. Now we hear that the country’s salt supplies are running out, so why not simply have a chat with our salt-harvesting friends across the Channel to see if they’d be interested in some extra business?
So what did Epic get up to on her unexpected ‘snow day’? Not much. Couldn’t work because at work the remote connection was down. Couldn’t veg with True Movies because our aerial is down.. Didn’t want to make snowmen because I’d experienced enough cold for one day, so I turned on the gas fire, swaddled myself in a rug and enjoyed a couple of DVDs set on tropical islands – the perfect antidote to such a chilly day. Oh, and if that sounds a bit TOO slothful, I also managed quite a bit of housework and some internet research for a pending HR situation at work.
Determined to return to the Land of the Living on Tuesday, I booked a cab, only to receive a last-minute phone call to say that a bus had slid into it just 200 metres down the road from our flat. To that, Monsieur asked me “Don’t they have snow ploughs in London?”
I later found out that no, London does not possess a single snow plough because it hasn’t needed one for some years, but if the current weather conditions indicate a looming ice age, I think it might be time to invest in one, at the very least. Either that, or take a leaf out of one Londoner’s book and cross country ski to work.
** P.S. If I can work out how to edit and upload my little film, you’ll see it here someday. I’m definitely still in the learner stage of my budding geek-dom!