Blog : I want spring – now!

Our readers in the more northern countries will probably smile now, but I’ve had enough of winter now. A couple of days – or even weeks – with snow and frost are fine for me, around Christmas, in January or February…

Words and photography : Alexander Boucke


But now, a few days before Easter I don’t want tons of salt on the road or keep even large flower pots with so called ‘hardy’ plants inside. So yesterday, 23 March, I set off to meet the MINI’s centenary tour in Seneffe in Belgium.

First thought was to take the Maxi there, as some of them have been built there as well as in Cowley. After the weather forecast told about the slight possibly of light snow showers I changed plans and took my Maestro, fitted with snow tyres and already caked in salty deposits. The picture at the top shows you what came when I drove past Liège… When being caught in a queue behind an accident for the second time I called it a day. I called the MINI guys, wishing them a good trip – and waited in line another 40 minutes to get to the next exit to turn around.

Just as two weeks ago, when rather large amounts of snow fell, see below, frosty temperatures seem to be the order of the day – not really feeling like springtime. Or as my younger daughter (three) has put it: a new winter has begun…


Alexander Boucke


  1. We have had ONE night in march when the minimum temperature has not been below 0C. Last night it was minus 13.3 🙁 It’s colder now than January and Febuary. See this local weather nerds web site: Great site, but depressing reading at the moment

    Winter tyres are becoming all year tyres.

  2. ant80, I think the bloke I saw yesterday, who tried to reverse his Defender from his farm to the nearest lane, 7 miles out of Nuneaton,and got stuck 40 feet from the road, might not agree! Four foot drifts nearby..

    • @Paul, one might think so. But when looking deeper into it, one will also find that a single, particularly cold winter and global warming are no contradictions…

      @Tim: Sure, there are places that are far worse off than we are now here in Aachen – north eastern Germany is as bad as Denmark. Here in Aachen we should have mild winters in theory, I remember plenty of them with hardly more frost than we had in March only now and plenty with no snow worth mentioning. In fact, compared to the usual wet and grey winter weather, days with snow (and sunshine) are much better.

      @ant80: The Maestro on right tyres is excellent in snow, the high ride height ARG saddled them with makes a lot of sense as it needs more than 10″ of snow to stop me (thats when the front dam is used as serious snow plough) – I took it out for fun a few times. But there is a different level of fun involved when you need to get to work surrounded by other drivers who think it is no fun at all…

      I just can’t see it anymore – also: what’s the noise a Maestro bodywork makes when constantly bathed in salty water? 🙁

  3. @Alexander Boucke, the idea of human-caused “global warming” is a crock, climate change is a natural phenomenon. There is plenty of doubt to go around, for a few examples, see:

    To quote the late Reid Bryson, father of scientific climatology, “Global warming is hooey!”

    • @Carter, you should have read my comment more carefully: I just stated that particularly cold winters and global warming are not a contradiction. Being a scientist myself – although in a different field – I know very well that the last word on this is not spoken by far and that political influence does often spoil valuable scientific work.

  4. I can see why there are accidents in bad weather like this. Too many idiots do not change their driving style to suit the weather conditions. I had to make a 200 mile round trip early on Saturday, nearly all main dual carriageways I may add, but some of these hadn’t yet been gritted, and they had about an inch or two of surface snow. There were still morons in the outside lane doing 70 plus! One classic example was a young girl in a silver Yaris, only sidelights on, and she was on her mobile! Visibility was poor at best, and down to a couple of hundred yards in places, so that girl in the silver Yaris will have been just about invisible, esp as her headlights were covered in snow.

  5. Cumbria has been badly affected. Although I’m outside the worst affected areas, the A595 was blocked all weekend at both ends and we’ve had a freezing wind and bitterly cold temperatures since the beginning of last week. Also the usual suspects- the M6, A686, A66 and A689- have been severely disrupted and are extremely dangerous. I think it will turn a bit milder by the weekend, but anyone expecting a warm easter can forget about it this year as temperatures aren’t expected to reach double figures until next week.

  6. I think the problem today is that we are all too cushioned from the real world. We (me included) moan like hell when we can’t get a signal on our mobile. I was travelling to Hemmel Hempstead on Friday whilst having an important business discussion with my colleague – hands free obviously. I was incensed when I lost the signal. But then I thought, hang on, my dear Father passed on in the mid 90’s and if he could see the technology that we take for granted today, he would have a fit.
    My point is that we all want to be cosseted and protected – pampered even.
    Weather is just that – weather: unpredictable, challenging and sometimes extreme. We have so much more kit today – four wheel drives, mobiles for getting instant help, auto sensor wipers with umpteen speeds, heated seats, piercing lights, traction control…….the list goes on.
    Why not just revel in all the gizmos and enjoy! It was not many years ago that we sat on cold vinyl seats, had (Ford) wipers that stood still when we put our foot down, had to spend anxious hours trying to find a phone box and knew that no one was going to come along and spread salt all over the road to make it easy for us.
    How about we just be grateful – we are the right side up – life’s a challenge but no where near as challenging as even just 30 years ago! Enjoy!

  7. Whilst loathing this extended winter (I have Reynaud’s disease and a house that is too expensive to heat- so chilblains galore), I am at least thankful that in Gloucester we haven’t had any March snow.

    Sorry you missed your Mini meet Alexander. Damn shame.

    @6, Paul van Lieshout,

    Just because it may be unseasonally cold in your part of the world, it does not disprove Global Warming. I think the clue is in the word ‘Global’, ie the whole world, not just your back garden. And to point out the bleeding obvious, Global Warming does not mean that we won’t get unseasonal weather from time to time, but in fact its more likely. For example, the melting of the polar ice that drives ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream could mean that Northern European areas which are warmed by it could become colder.

  8. It’s not as clean-cut, since the debate on the actual existence of man-made global warming is still far hotter than the actual supposed rise in global temperature.
    We all saw the movie, but how much is fact and how much is fiction?
    Where are the indisputable facts of rising temperature?
    Facts, not hear-say. Not just because Gore or CNN says so?
    It doesn’t make it true, when one repeats oneself over and over again, now does it?

    And IF there are any facts about a current global warming, who says it’s not an act of Mother Nature? She is -by fact- known for doing that once and a while. She even reversed the poles on occasion just for a laugh! (That must be irritating when you are a dove in flight and almost at your destination, but I digress.)
    Some say, there was a mini ace-age in the Middle Ages on our part of the globe, we are now slowly crawling out of. I don’t know.
    What I DO know, is that I’m hard-headed. W/o proof, I don’t take anyone’s word.
    I don’t mean proof like in a submerging Holland or continues Balkan-like weather, (though that IS kind of convincing), no; I would like a facts-based, no BS, non-5-minutes-of-fame-seeking, non-commercial and overly convincing explanation.
    An explanation, at least 75% of the scientists will agree on.
    Plus, is it our fault or a fact of nature?
    Is that too much to ask? It’s our children children’s future!

    There’s no need for media-horny Americans, who come individually to environmental gatherings in Europe in their own private jets, paid by “green” charities.
    Which gets me back to my initial comment, number 6 from the top.

    So, please correct me if (when) I’m wrong. I have no problem with a good argument or even eating humble-pie, when necessary.
    Note; with proof, please. Otherwise it’s again hot air.
    Not from anybody here in the replies, I might add; it’s not a personal witch-hunt. Think about that, ThePlebs. Tsk-tks!
    (Stepping down from the soapbox.)

    @The Wolseley Man.
    I agree 100%.

    • @The Wolseley Man: Good post – in my cars I prefer not too have too many gizmos (none in most cases), but at home I really think that a nice, computer controlled central heating a nice way of being pampered.

      @Paul van Lieshout: Apart from not having seen the movie, I would sign your lines.

      An explanation, at least 75% of the scientists will agree on.
      Plus, is it our fault or a fact of nature?
      Is that too much to ask? It’s our children children’s future!

      It is not too much to ask, but indeed a large lot. Thinking about our children’s future combined with the fossile fuels not being infinite is actually reason enough to take some care, isn’t it? That man-made changes to the world may have an ill effect on our climate just adds to this in my opinion. And if it is later found out that everything wasn’t as bad (or in fact just nature with no possible way to change it for mankind) – so what?

      Anyway – since I typed in my rant it is nice and sunny here, you just should not look at the outside temperatures, but there is no ‘-‘ in front – just 🙂

  9. @Alexander Boucke
    About gizmo’s; I agree. A car parking itself, or braking itself in a traffic congestion to a full stop w/o any manual action and an owner who’s actually PROUD of the face it can, makes me cringe. And scared.

    About Global Warming; point taken. I don’t disagree, I must say.

    Isn’t it nice; local warming when coming out of the ice-period? Here in DK it’s finally starting to “plus” too.
    The cat in the window is “purringly” agreeing.

    On the subject of cats; I sincerely hope that there’s a catalytic converter of the pre-gizmo cars you drive. Too much -even local- carbon monoxide blown into the air is bad for Mother I heard. 😉

    • @Paul van Lieshout:
      Cat (1): There is a cat sleeping in the sun on the doormat outside of my office – even if it is a black one, I’d say a good sign 😉

      Cat (2): Of the everyday cars that do most driving one has a cat and a nice economical Rover K-series engine. The Maestro is pre-cat days, but I drive it purely on LPG, which has much lower toxic emissions like CO, NOx, HCx (not to cat-level, but still significant) and also lower CO2 emissions than most cars on petrol or diesel.

  10. One aspect of snow driving, it explodes the RWD drive nonsense from the Bavarians. BMC got it right 50 years ago. FWD is the ultimate driving machine.

  11. MM – in a very sporting and non- confrontational way I wish we were able to arm you with a front drive modern car ( but nothing with nice narrow tyrs like a 2cv) and me with a Hillman Imp (I’d have to borrow one) and put us in some reasonable snow.
    I love a challenge and absolutely loved Imps – we had loads of ’em in the 80’s.

  12. You and me both Mr Boucke…I’ve had it with Winter. My Swedish friend can’t see what the problem is though…

  13. Quote: Our readers in the more northern countries will probably smile now!
    No, we Danes are as sick and tired of the winter, snow, salty roads and freezing temps. We want spring NOW!!!!!!
    This weather and salty roads delay the classic car driving season by 2 weeks so far, don’t know how many more 🙁

  14. I think we should all hibernate in winter. Would be so much easier, and would save a fortune in fuel

  15. @WolseleyMan

    Hey, as a former Wolseley owner, albeit only badge-engineered BMC examples, I wish I could write something positive towards you but….sadly….

    as I was reading your comment you said you were engaged in a tele-conference while driving “hands free of course”.

    When are you, and the millions of other morons like you, going to realise that it is not what you are doing with your HANDS that is the issue it is what is happening with your MIND while yapping away on the phone?

    You are an accident waiting to happen mate, no matter how well you THINK you can multi-task.

    Just within the last few days I have had two near-misses with idiots on the phone bowling through stop signs completely oblivious to their surroundings.

    Wolseley Man, give it up before the worst happens to you and you kill someone or yourself.

  16. #24, I’m refering to a certain make of Bavarian cars, you know the ones: 50-50 weight distribution, not an Imp which with the weight of an engine over the rear wheels would make good progress in snow.

  17. Talking on a hands free does distract the driver, it’s been proven. That’s why I don’t do it.
    But driving with one less hand is equally dangerous IMO, maybe less so on motorways where you’re not as likely to encounter a bump, drain cover or something else to take the steering.

  18. I’ve heard that in the next few years, even Bluetooth will be banned. Not before time tbh, as I was a frequent user of this and when you are blabbing away on the blower, you are not in full control

  19. Alexander, just thought I’d say how the above photo flatters your Maestro, and the car in general. It always did look best in ligh metallics I reckon. The angle of this photo also does justice to the proportions. As I’ve said elsewhere time has served Maestro well. In 1983 its large size robbed it of appeal for younger Escort, Astra buyers. Today, it’s size is much more contemporary.

  20. Ref. my comment above – I can see someone saying “that’s because it’s covered in snow”. Well, I’ll get there first and say “No, the car, the styling looks good”

  21. I absolutely sympathise with Alberta’s message though think it a shame when correspondents on this web site sink to personal abuse.
    The comment was actually caused by my somewhat cryptic sense of humour. I’ll explain:
    I am the MD of a small risk management company
    I have an IAM driving standard
    I hold a RoSPA Gold qualification
    I drive to ADI Diploma standard
    Within my role I am the senior accident investigation director
    My company actively campaigns for our clients to prohibit the use of phones (hands free or otherwise) in cars
    My thoughtless words have clearly caused some anger and strong views and that is good.
    I did say quite clearly that I was ‘traveling’ to Hemmel Hempstead – not driving. Of course I was hands free – my very capable female assistant was driving!
    It is nice to know that there are some people out there who think it unacceptable to use the phone whilst driving – sometimes it gets quite depressing trying to get reps and courier drivers to agree.
    Well done Alberta – just don’t call me names eh?

  22. I know this is tempting fate, but there have been several cold marches in my lifetime- 1970, 1975, 1982, 1983, 1986 and 2003- that were followed by good summers. 2003 was very cold in March, but was followed by six months of excellent weather with temperatures reaching 90 degrees on three days.

  23. I actually hate using satnav, but unfortunately in my current line of work they are a must, as I sometimes work all over the east of England going as far south as Dover right up to Skeggy, and as far inland as Northampton. Luckily we double crew, so all the mobile phone work is done by whoever is ‘co driver’

  24. @35 So if the mere act of talking distracts the driver, do we soon start gagging the passengers!

    There is a lot of rubbish talked about this sort of thing, and before sombody starts, I DO have a traffic death in my nearest family 🙂

  25. Well if the Mercedes S class is again a prelude of things to come, we’ll all soon be passengers anyway…

    And in the event one has an accident anyway, just sue the hell out of the manufacturer.
    How are we to take responsibility on anything these days. It’s always somebody else’s fault…

    Takes me back to #21:
    About gizmo’s; I agree. A car parking itself, or braking itself in a traffic congestion to a full stop w/o any manual action and an owner who’s actually PROUD of the fact it can, makes me cringe. And scared.

    And about Global Warming, fossil fuels, CO, NOx, etc; let’s go down the road of EV-cars.
    Up to now, I couldn’t take full electric cars serious, just look at the Mitsubishi i-MiEV/Pug iOn/Citroën C-Zero, which cost here in DK a whopping £34k! That’s unrealistic, apart from the fact cars cost their weight in gold in DK.
    Yesterday I saw on NatGeo’s Mega Factories episode: Tesla S.
    I consider myself a gear-head with RON103 for blood, but I was seriously impressed!
    All that for a price of only (relatively) £64k. In DK, that is…
    Apparently is has carbon footprint half that of a comparable car.
    Not like a Prius, which CF over a 10 year lifespan is MORE than a Range Rover V8 Vogue!

    Tesla’s 3th Gen (after the Roadster and the aforementionmed S) will be a scaled-down S, that “be an Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Volkswagen Jetta type of vehicle that will offer everything: range, affordability, and performance with a starting price of US$30,000” (source Wikipedia).


  26. I actually enjoy driving in the snow, had a trip from Swansea to Edinburgh on Friday morning, via picking someone up on the Powys/Shropshire border.
    We were in my girlfriends Clio, it has no power of grip but with a bit of care it was more than capable of slithering about in a blizzard narrowly missing fallen trees. I did find 2 impassable roads (one we couldn’t get up and another I didn’t commit to going down as knew I wouldn’t be able to get back up again) but nothing a slight route change couldn’t fix.
    The best bit, hardly any other traffic on the road for hours.

  27. I could never go back to rwd, I find fwd so much better in snow and ice. Yet, unless you own a BMW or a luxury saloon like a Mercedes S class, almost everyone who has been driving since the eighties will have been driving a fwd car. Anyone wonder how a more basic rwd saloon like a Marina would cope in the snow, considering they weren’t noted for their handling?

  28. Those old rwd cars were not that bad – but they did need more skill to make progress in snow. In some ways the were more capable – for example when on a steeply cambered road a fwd might just slide off to the side and there would be precious little you could do to stop it. With a rear wheel drive you could hang the tail out and keep steering – moving – in the direction you wanted. I don’t think it is so much a case of one being superior to the other – just totally different in technique.
    As a kid of a bout 13 I well remember leaving Bristol with my dad at the wheel of his 49 Vauxhall Ten at about 10 ish on Boxing Night 1963 (someone correct me if I’ve got the date wrong of that wonderful proper winter of snow that was still on the ground in March). We travelled the 50 miles home (pre motorway or even dual carraigeway) through virgin snow at least a foot deep and drifts of much more – with no mishaps at all. It was fantastic fun and Dad was really enjoying himself too.
    Never to be repeated days for the average bloke.
    Incidentally I’ve driven hundreds of miles in things like Commer P series vans, side valve Ford vans, Triumph Heralds, Vauxhall Vivas and Crestas in snow and ice – they went anywhere with a dozen concrete blocks in the boot!

  29. #44 : it was Boxing day 1962 that heralded the 2nd longest winter of my life ( 1947 was even worse ) . I know this because it was the day I had my first accident – when my girlfriend said go straight on, and a friend in the back said fork right, so I bisected the angle , slid on the snow and hit a tree , fortunately at about 10 mph

  30. Thanks for the correction Christopher. I couldn’t work it out to be sure.
    I had a similar embarrassing moment some years later in a shorter snow period driving a beetle. I saw the sharp bend on an estate – nothing around – no pedestrians – dead end etc. so thought I’d go full lock left, floor it and kick the tail out. Bloomin thing went straight on and demolished the municipal road sign declaring the name of the road. Thankfully no one was peeping through their curtains – not a sole arrived. So I backed off of it and went on my way. I don’t feel too guilty as I’ve contributed many thousands
    of pounds toward the roads upkeep over the last 47 years – and as far as I know that’s the only thing I’ve broken!

  31. I had a Nissan Almera, not noted for its handling, and had an interesting experience in the great snowfall of 2010 where it suddenly took a mind of its own and spun round 360 degrees on a hill. Luckily the road was deserted.

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