Friday, 3 December 2010

I'm Dreaming Of A Green Christmas

I am slightly ashamed to confess that as a child I was a complete wuss and suffered from an extreme aversion to dirt. I recall several occasions when my sister and cousins waded through streams, had snow ball fights or generally rolled around in the mud while I stood at the side watching, protectively clutching my padded fluorescent hair-band to my head.

At some point over the years I became less squeamish almost over night and started annually going to two music festivals and contending with portaloos without any of the old fuss. Despite miraculous advancements in my stance on dirt, one old hatred has only grown as I have. I don’t understand and will possibly never comprehend the excitement that comes with snow. As a child I remember being all wrapped up, verging on tears and almost having to be forced to go and play in the great white outdoors. I recall enjoying sleigh rides in the fields near to my Nan's house but just like today I wasn't so keen on the uphill walk afterwards.

As an adult I have to admit that snow certainly helps make everything look much more attractive but as soon as it starts to thaw, snow has quite the reverse affect. Rather than helping me feel more festive, snow encourages seasonal tourettes. I am such a clumsy accident prone person already that the very presence of snow puts the fear in me and I start to imagine my demise. Heading out in snowy conditions is never good but is at least safer when the snow is deep. Walking from the flat into Leeds the other day was a severely dangerous task – not a central city road, the route glistened with thick layers of ice daring me to take it on. Attempting to carefully cross at the central reservation, I couldn't help but fear the worst. My walk time doubled as I precariously slid around occasionally having to grab onto a rather filthy railing to avoid the worst as passing drivers most probably giggled at the spectacle.

The arrival of this year's second major freeze was perfectly timed to almost ruin my holiday plans as it decided the day I was flying to Cologne was a good time to settle. Thankfully East Midlands Airport wasn't too badly hit and we took off on time but arriving into Cologne we were back to havoc wreaked by snow - left waiting on the plane for an hour for some extremely icy steps to arrive. Departing Cologne three days later snow delayed us by an hour and a half and on arrival we faced a frosty car and no de-icer – thank god (or whoever there is) for the hard edges of empty savoury egg containers.

Having been relatively unaffected by the snow once in Cologne, returning to the UK I was advised to avoid my Leeds-Kent journey because of train cancellations – apparently whole train routes had been suspended for days due to “adverse weather conditions”. Southeastern trains cover an enormous commuter route and I honestly couldn’t quite believe the snow had completely halted any kind of service. Ringing up the “weather hotline”, I was repeatedly transferred to the automated service (love those things) and usefully told the journey was “amended” before the message cut out. A lucky friend actually managed to get hold of an operator to ask about the situation but the employee clearly hadn’t been briefed in any way and was equally useful, admitting they had no idea if trains were even running at all.

Deciding to take a chance I stubbornly risked letting National Express take charge of my fate and actually made it to London, merely half an hour delayed. Luckily Southeastern trains were operating a limited timetable again and I made it home safely after about seven and a half hours travelling time. One hurdle overcome now just about five to go!

As I am still a bit of a hobo I have two more weekends and a journey back Kentways before Christmas to haul myself up and down the country AND then after all of that... I need to get to Chester and from there back up to Leeds. Daily newspaper snow forecast updates do little to ease the depression. We’re threatened with the coldest winter in 30 years; warned those planning on travelling cross-country might have to completely postpone Christmas and celebrate the week after; told snow on Christmas Day is a “foregone conclusion” and even reassured by comforting bosses at Southeastern that trains running in snow “will always be a problem”. Is the arrival of this extremely cold wet occasionally dangerous and debilitating white fluff really worth celebrating?

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