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Slip-sliding away - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Slip-sliding away
Well that was fun. The snow stopped about 10 minutes after I left the office, so all I had to contend with were the increasingly slushy and icy pavements. You don't really notice how steeply cambered the pavements in Cambridge are until you're sliding down them... As for the ramp on the Jesus Green side of Jesus Lock Bridge, that was just hopeless -- I couldn't have taken a single step up it. I had to pull myself up the banister hand-over-hand.

It seems rather ironic (to metamorphose for a moment into "Disgusted of Kings Hedges") that while the various traffic strategies do their best to make cars feel unwelcome in the town centre, it is only the cars which are catered for when the bad weather comes -- the roads are gritted, but the cycle paths and footpaths remain treacherously icy. And it's doubly ironic when you consider that the vast majority of the cars one sees around Cambridge are designed for coping with off-road driving in extreme weather conditions...

To be honest, though, I was more preoccupied with aesthetics than with transport politics; and it wasn't only the tourists who were pausing every few moments to snap pictures of snow-shrouded graveyards or the stalagmites of dreaming spires. I took a few photos, but none of them came out very well -- the light just isn't right in the photos, I couldn't really capture the way things are highlighted and shaded by their coatings of snow. I particularly love the way ordinary things like bicycles and railings are changed by the snow -- their shape is picked out but their specific nature is hidden; they're transformed from function into form. The eye tends to skate over some things and focus on others, to read the whole -- "a tree", "a building" -- and skimp on the details; by highlighting every surface indiscriminately, the snow forces the eye to take in every bit of what lies before it -- every curve, every line.

I got home to find a group of small (age 6-7ish?) boys making a large ball of snow, nearly as big as them, on our driveway. I said "I'm sorry, somebody's going to want to park their car there in about half an hour, so I'm afraid you're going to have to move that..." They looked at me, looked at each other, and said "Destroy it!" I felt a bit guilty, and said "I'll help you roll it somewhere else if you want..." but they said "Nah, this is much more fun," and kicked the ball of snow to bits. Last thing I heard as I went into the house was one of them saying "Die, bitch, die!" as he put the boot in.

Talking of boots ... my walking boots are soggy, and as a result my feet are cold and damp. I need shoes which have a good gripping sole and are waterproof, but I'm reluctant to buy such a thing just for the 2 days out of 365 when Britain grinds to a halt because of the completely unexpected weather phenomenon which we get every year.

Current Mood: wintry

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Comments
huskyteer From: huskyteer Date: January 28th, 2004 10:22 am (UTC) (Link)
> I'm reluctant to buy such a thing just for the 2 days out of 365 when Britain grinds to a halt

But they will last and last and last. My severe-weather boots are about ten years old, precisely because they only get two days' wear a year.
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: January 28th, 2004 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Um, like I said, "Completely unexpected ... which happens every year". That was the point. You might not be able to predict it down to the day or even the week, but you can predict fairly reliably that in late January there will be enough snow that traffic is affected. But every year it seems to come as a complete surprise to the people responsible for maintaining the country's infrastructure.
ewx From: ewx Date: January 29th, 2004 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)

AIUI those responsible people are local government, which to be fair is not exactly well-funded in this country. (There is a possibility of reform in the air concerning local taxation, or so I read, so this might not be a given in the long term.) So one possible interpretation is that as a country we'd rather accept the losses due to not being able to get to work, etc, than maintain an infrastructure capable of operating even in the 1% of the year when it snows.

I'm not entirely sure I accept this argument though; for the second year running I've heard stories of gritting lorries being stuck in traffic, which suggests that here is an attempt to maintain transport systems even in these very adverse conditions, but that it's not working and that congestion seems to be the immediate cause. This is a hopeful point of view: reducing congestion is generally seen as a good thing anyway (even if there are conflicting ideas as to how this should be done) so any successes there might have a knock-on effect on the bad-weather snafus.

At any rate, I'm rather glad to live in town during these episodes, as (illness permitting) it's still possible to get to work and (more importantly!) back home without too much pain. The A14 'war stories' from the last 24 hours and from the big freeze early last year are pretty disturbing.

(Incidentally I don't think that proportions of the year down in the 1-2% region are that far from the point at which it'd just be better for everyone to stay home; we already take much longer off in public holidays, perhaps we should change two or three of the existing ones into floating public holidays which automatically coincide with very bad weather.)

sion_a From: sion_a Date: January 29th, 2004 02:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Re:

The cross-town drive to work this morning was the clearest of traffic I've ever known it. And apart from the first and last hundred yards and a small patch on the Madingley Road/Queen's Road/Northampton Street roundabout the roads were fine. The weather and road conditions weren't bad yesterday either -- I've got to think it's just that Cambridge traffic is so on the edge of what it can bear that the slightest incident somewhere in the environs can gridlock the entire city.
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