Every so often there is some snow in the UK.
Not very often.
Actually it would be probably better to say – about once a year, but actually not even as often as that, about twice every two years – but sometimes we go three or four years in between – we get some snow in the UK
And it usually causes a few problems – we get traffic snarl ups, road closures, public transport problems, and sporting fixtures postponed, Oh and we get schools closed and people sent home from school.
And every time that happens we get something else – people who whinge about how the snow causes so much difficulty when we have so little of it.
Predictable lines are as follows :
How is it that [ Canada / Russia / Germany / Norway / insert country that gets more snow than us ] can have [ 12 feet / 18 feet / insert improbably large depth ] of snow EVERY DAY for three years, and the trains aren’t even 5 minutes late once – but when we get [ a few centimetres / millimetres / a light dusting / insert improbably slight amount ] of snow everything GRINDS TO A HALT
Back in 1963, our school never closed – we used to walk to school through 100 foot high snowdrifts and if we were 2 minutes late our teacher used to hit us with a big stick and we’d say thankyou; but nowadays they close every school at the drop of a hat.
When Stanley Matthews wor a lad, they used to play football even when the snow was up to their necks; and the balls were made of pigs bladders filled with concrete; and the crowds were 80,000 strong, and sometimes it was so cold that they couldn’t move from the terraces because their feet had frozen to the spot; but they clapped every goal and then walked home forty miles in a blizzard; nowadays they call off every game at the merest hint of a snow flake.
You get the picture ?
Well the fight back starts here.
You want to know why snow causes problems ? Want to know why we don’t all have snow chains for our cars ? Want to know why we don’t grit the roads three or four times every night between September and May ?
Easy – it’s because it hardly ever happens, and when it does it rarely lasts longer than a day or so.
Want to save a bit of your car maintenance budget ? – Easy ! – don’t get winter tyres or snow chains – I’ve never had any in my whole life – because I’ve never really needed them
Want to keep council spending down ? Easy ! – don’t waste it all on salt and grit that usually gets washed away before the snow lands, and tends to make everyone’s cars rust a bit quicker.
Want to keep your costs down in your football stadium ? Well postpone a game or two every couple of years – and don’t switch that expensive under soil heating on.
Snow tends to give us all a bit of excitement once every blue moon, something we can tell our kids about in years to come. It really doesn’t inconvenience us much though in the long run.
So to answer the points above -
How come those countries can carry on when they have loads of snow ? Easy – it’s because they invest a lot of time and effort in doing so – because it makes economic sense because they get loads of snow. We don’t – because it doesn’t and we don’t.
How come the schools stayed open in 1963 and they all close now ? Well lots of schools did close in 1963 – but many of them didn’t because most of their pupils lived within walking distance – which they had to because most people did not have cars. Today pupils can travel several miles to a school – and staff often travel far further due to the mobility – both geographical and social – that the car has given us. The big problem in a school is ending up in a situation where you have children who can not be supervised properly because staff have been unable to get to work.. There is also a great deal of pressure on schools to let parents know a school is closed as soon as possible – and schools do sometimes have to close on a probable threat of further snow rather than waiting for it to happen. My kids are now in the 6th form – I think this has happened maybe four times since they started school when they were 5. Hardly a massive inconvenience – they loved every one of those “snow days”.
“Snow days” by the way is one of those expressions we’ve borrowed from the big snow countries – where extra days are built into the school year because they know that they’ll probably have to close several times.
And what about the sport ? How did they they manage to keep going back then ? Well – they didn’t !
In the much talked about winter of 62/63 there was barely any Football, Rugby League, or Rugby Union played in England or Scotland between late December and February – some FA Cup ties were re-arranged more than 10 times.
In the UK only one Horse racing meeting took place in Scotland, with none at all in the other nations, between 23rd December and 7th March – with 97 race meetings cancelled.Today in 2013 on the day after the most significant snow falls of the year throughout the country, not a single Premier League or Championship match has been postponed – and fans have been able to travel throughout the country to watch those games, on motorways that have been open throughout the day.
So we do pretty well actually – we could do a lot better – but it’s really not worth it – it doesn’t happen often and it’s rarely around for long.
Now excuse me I’m off to build a snowman before it all melts
When I was at school I was very into politics. Or I thought I was !
My views were a bit odd. I considered myself Liberal (this was in the late 70’s long before the Lib-Dems). In some ways I was, but my views were stridently left wing. All in all a good mix for an aspiring politician finding his feet in life.
At the West Yorkshire grammar school I attended, there were few others in my 6th Form fired up about politics. There were several people into Rock Against Racism, and proudly wearing Anti Nazi League and “Who Seh ?” and “Go Deh !” badges, but to be honest the badges were the extent of it. People were as likely to wear Anarchist or Red Army Faction badges – with no understanding of what it meant. Neither had we yet twigged that the Socialist Worker Party was not really the benign opponent of the National Front we thought.
No – there were just 3 others : Firstly Yasin – the only Asian in school. He and I were active in promoting Anti Nazi League agendas, including unfair accusations against teachers which got us into trouble, he persuaded me to join the Young Liberals (seriously underwhelming) – before defecting to Labour when he got a chance to appear in a photo-shoot with Shirley Williams as a representative of the Asian Youth Movement ( I suspect another entryist group). I believe he’s now a wealthy city trader, with no political affiliation.
Next up – Adam : The son of a local Tory councillor and well known grumpy old git shop keeper, he distributed leaflets from nutcase far right groups. Despite generally being a very personable lad, he was racist, and blamed the world’s problems on “Paki’s” .
If I’m to cut him any slack, his home (above the shop) was on a street more or less cleared under slum clearance, then re-occupied by large numbers of poorly educated, and generally poverty stricken Asian families. This affected his Dad’s business – more so when the same people set up their own shops offering competition which had never previously existed.
Last I heard he lived in a large converted farmhouse in the South Midlands, no interest in politics, and his Dad’s shop is long since demolished.
Finally there was Andrew who didn’t appear to be political. didn’t distribute leaflets, campaign for anything or wear badges. He listened to Santana records because his friends did – he wasn’t fussed really. He looked smart in his Grammar School blazer, and smiled alot. People liked him. Me too.
As we approached the 1979 election though my opinion changed. I saw the election as my chance to start being a politician (yes I was that naive !) a rehearsal for my forthcoming days at University, when I would inevitably lead the vanguard of the revolution (for the Liberals – are you catching the inconsistencies ?). I campaigned vigorously amongst my fellow A-Level students who would all be voting for the first time. I liked to think that I had the better of the arguments.
Andrew was a funny one though. He was never swayed by my arguments, nor did he just ignore me, nor did he just take the p*** – he calmly countered with what I felt were totally unreasonable arguments, and a hurt look on his face.
Why should my taxes pay for people who can’t be bothered to work ?
Why should someone hardworking like me, have to pay higher taxes than someone who can’t be bothered to do anything but work in a factory ?
Some things were very odd : Why should I carry a Kidney Donor Card ? If I was in an accident the doctors would use my kidney to save someone who probably didn’t deserve it
He made my blood boil – but never lost his cool. Just looked wounded and hurt, like I was being unreasonable.
His clincher was this – He told everyone in the 6th Form that they should vote Conservative. Why ? because we are the elite who will get the elite jobs – it’s in our best interests to vote for our party.
On the 4th May 1979 I woke up to Margaret Thatcher as PM. The Liberals were wiped out, Labour decimated. This time there was a big majority – the see-saw politics of the 70’s was quite clearly over. Some 4 years later I spoke with a friend from school, now an unemployed graduate who told me “I voted Conservative because Andrew told me to. So did everybody else, I just liked him, and he seemed pretty intelligent. “. Of course he now seriously regretted it.
For my part I never really got over the disappointment of that year, and the subsequent collapse of left wing opposition which didn’t really recover until Labour’s 1997 victory – and it’s only in the last couple of months – 30 years later, that I’ve once again had the courage of my convictions to once again join a political party – The Labour Party.
Along the way I did make contact with Andrew, now living in a pleasant part of North Yorkshire, a member of the Conservatives, and married to a teacher working in a private school. As I was at the time the Head of an independent (charity run) special school, I couldn’t resist firing a few barbed comments about the teachers in private schools being largely unqualified, and under paid in relation to the state sector – not that those in my school were. I presumed my acid drops hit the mark, as I received no further comment.
Until a couple of weeks since. Out of the blue another friend from school got in touch via Facebook. We reminisced a little – and I was flattered that he expressed surprise that I hadn’t pursued a career in politics – since I was always so much into the Labour Party (which I wasn’t actually – but that’s how he remembered it). Inevitably we got to talking about Andrew.
Oh yes I see his wife about twice a year -
Why don’t you see him.
Didn’t you know – he died of leukaemia about two years ago !
Once again my adversary had defeated me, but this time I felt no bitterness. Only sadness.
Andrew inadvertently taught me lots of things.
He taught me that I was naive and confused in 1979. He taught me that although all people get a vote, not all people care about how they use it – but all their votes count. He taught me that people don’t always go for the strongest argument. Sometimes they go for the nicest smile or the smartest blazer. He taught me that politics needs principles, but also needs the support of the unprincipled.
Most importantly of all he reminded me that we all have only one life – so we’d better do our best to make a good go of it first time round.
I’m sorry I was unkind to Andrew, he didn’t deserve it and I will miss him. He was a very worthy adversary.
I’ll still be voting Labour though !
One day I’ll get back to doing political stuff on my blog, but tonight was my daughter’s school leavers night at middle school before heading for Upper School in September, and when your iPhone’s in your pocket, and you can send the pics straight to your blog, there’s no contest really.
Very proud of her winning the school history prize, particular because I love history but was never good at it at school, and because both my children ridicule my love of museums.
I’m very proud of her !
Her choreography to Black Eyed Peas was pretty good too !
– Post From My iPhone
When I saw this morning’s news regarding the Tory plans to change the SATs regime ( Tories propose school test reform ), in part by moving them from the end of the last term in primary to the beginning of the first term in secondary, I couldn’t help but wonder why this move of a few weeks in “working day” terms would be likely to be make much difference – but I didn’t really twig immediately what far reaching implications this would have.
Paul Cotterill, the Labour councillor for Bickerstaffe Ward, West Lancashire, England obviously did twig though and I don’t think I can do much better than point to his excellent blog Conservative education policy: steal children’s golden summer (quoting also the article on “Conor’s Commentary” which covers much the same ground)
I’ve often thought as a teacher and headteacher that so much of what we teach children only scratches the surface of what they actually learn. The really important part of learning is what they actually do, and how they actually use and make sense of, the skills and knowledge that are imparted to them in the hallowed halls of academia.
In other words they tend to learn more in the holidays than they do sat behind a desk.
My happiest times as a child were spent playing out, playing football, cricket, British Bulldogs, sailing down the beck in a tin bath, etc. , etc., whatever took our fancy.
The main and best opportunity for this was during the seemingly endless six week block in the Summer. I think I loved every second, and it’s been a key motivation for becoming a teacher as an adult.
Why on earth would we want to make our kids stay and swot for their SATS all Summer long unless we thoroughly misunderstood the nature of child development ?
Lest we forget also, our current regime of SATS was inherited from the Tories.