Although I’m sure I will remember the first few months of 2013 for many other things (the food poisoning fiasco of Mansfield Ball, certainly) I have no doubt that it will remain forever lodged in my memory as the time during which I switched from the mindset of an excitable child at the sight of snow to the world (and weather) weary grumbling attitude adopted by most of my peers.
Of course, the first snowfall of the year generally results in excitement all round and across all years. The inevitable snowballing activities will be taken up with vigour as students stumble out of libraries at their own risk. The 9am lecture cancellation causes you to gaze gratefully out at the natural world wreaking gentle havoc on the timetable at your faculty. Even the Christmas jumpers we’d regretfully stowed away for another year can be donned triumphantly for what we assume will be a final hurrah, and the excuse for the experimental outing of the woolly hat/earmuffs/edgy-scarf-hat-item-we’re-not-quite-sure-about is grabbed by a large proportion of the student body.
We mournfully watch the snow turn to mush and before we know it normality is restored… Or so we thought. The second time a snowy situation befalls us, the consensus of approval tends to be distinctly split between the genuine snow lovers and those who were only in it for the novelty or being able to use it to formulate an elaborate excuse for being late for a tutorial or missing it all together. Nevertheless the slippery streets, at this stage, are still being used to capture the perfectly generic new cover photo by those who missed the first opportunity, and the charm of spotting a snowman in the middle of a quad will still bring a smile to most of our faces.
However there comes a time, and this time is now, when even those who fully appreciate the many delightful effects snow brings with it, run out of enthusiasm for the stuff. The funny anecdotes about how many times you managed to fall over on your walk to dinner turn into explanations to the college nurse over your twisted ankle. Despite doing so at an embarrassingly slow pace, the world around you has adapted to these ‘adverse weather conditions’ and you are required to adapt with it by leaving everywhere twenty minutes earlier than you normally would in preparation for having to negotiate a particularly icy bit of pavement. Yes that’s right; you have to walk while your bike is left in the racks with all the others, wondering what it is they all did wrong.
So this is the timeline that has played out this year and caused me, and I’m sure many others, to lose some of their childlike spirit of embracing extreme forms of weather – although I’m sure it could be restored by a freak March heat wave. As we approach the Easter weekend I think it is fair to say that snow has already made its persistent and recurring mark on 2013. Let’s just hope the weather gods consider the practicalities of organising an Easter Egg Hunt in these conditions and save the rest of the snow for Christmas morning, which is the one way that all this shivering might be worth it…
National Fail and a free drink Sam Bumby
“Ladies and Gentlemen, apologies again for the delay. This is due to the adverse weather conditions. As you have been waiting for so long, you are entitled to a free cup of tea or coffee. The hot drinks trolley is located in the front carriage of the train.” The whole train laughed. The entire train was overcrowded, because the last two trains had been cancelled. In any case, any attempt to claim our free hot drink of choice would have resulted in a stampede. No one had any desire to be trampled underfoot for the sake of a cup of own brand tea with UHT milk and sensibly stayed put. So what had caused this well meaning but ultimately naïve train conductor to offer us a drink? What was the reason that my train was delayed for an hour and a half in the first place?
You already know the answer to these questions. Even if it isn’t snowing where you live, your Facebook news feed will undoubtedly be filling up with pretty pictures of winter wonderlands, images of snow shaped into inappropriate objects and comments expressing indignation that the sky has the audacity to snow in March. Every other post will be a remark about how someone’s garden looks like Narnia, or how the snow reminds them of Christmas, as if they think that they are the only ones to have had that thought and feel the need to share it with the world. We have a national fascination with snow, which is understandable given it only appears a few times each year, normally around the festive period. It conjures up images of children playing, of friends and family coming together, of good food and hot drinks beside an open fire. But it’s also a massive inconvenience. It is not the snow that is annoying, but rather the inability of those in positions of responsibility to deal with the challenges it poses. If it rains, we put up our hoods or umbrellas and carry on as before. If it snows, everything screeches to a halt. The attitude of the train companies is typical. We knew it was going to snow yet did nothing about it, and now our services are in meltdown. Don’t worry though, have a free cup of tea. It is apparently even acceptable for George Osborne to blame bad economic performance on the snow, giving him a convenient scapegoat.
The reality is that as we continue to merrily pump emissions into the atmosphere, these severe weather conditions are only going to get worse. We in Britain should count ourselves lucky that compared to other parts of the world we have gotten off relatively lightly, although widespread flooding in recent years should serve as a warning that we will not immune from the effects of a changing climate. A sensible debate needs to be had about the future of our infrastructure, and in particular public transport, in order to prevent the scenes witnessed over the past few days from being repeated every time it snows. If we want people to use public transport as an alternative to driving cars then investment is needed in train and bus services to ensure they are reliable, efficient and able to handle the extra capacity. The bulk of this investment needs to come not from the government but from the private train companies which receive large sums of money from the taxpayers, raise prices year on year and make large profits from travellers. It is in the interests of everyone, including private providers of public transport, to ensure that in the long term Britain has a transport system which can withstand extreme weather conditions. It is time to stop using the snow as an excuse not to do anything, and time to use it as a reason to be proactive and push for change.