Blog : ‘Snow joke

Every year it happens: we have a few flakes of snow, and the country seems to come to a standstill. I’m not sure why it is, but Britain’s infrastructure or its people seem positively incapable of keeping going if there is any extreme of weather – whatever it is…

On Thursday evening, we were told that ‘Siberian’ style weather systems would be moving in and, as a result, don’t consider travelling, unless absolutely necessary to do so – and, if you must travel, then make sure you pack some clothes, food and a shovel in the boot. Wow… up to this point, the worst hit parts of the UK had received 2-3 inches of snow, and the rest of the East nothing more than a couple of inch’s worth.

When the ‘extreme’ weather system hit yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but chuckle, because all we got here, was cold drizzle. A road in East Yorkshire was snowed in for a while, but that seemed to be about it – and that was probably down to nothing more than a broken down truck or some such.

Anti-climax, but things go wrong

I’d imagine that if a Siberian actually experiences winter weather like this, they’d be feeling as though they were enjoying an Indian summer – trust me, I know (one of my former work colleagues was from Siberia, and she was full of tales of how the weather was back home)…

So, in reality, we didn’t get a blast of Arctic weather, or anything like it.

And yet, why was it in the first day or so of snow, we were bombarded with reports of road closures, accidents and mayhem? Are we so poor coping with changes in weather? If it snows, we get stuck in drifts; if it rains for a couple of days, somewhere floods; and if it is hot, we suffer from water shortages…

I love the snow

Personally speaking, when I saw the dusting of snow we received, I felt a child-like wave of excitement. And after brisk walk in it, I jumped in the car, and drove out to a big and deserted car park nearby to practice handbraking and drifting the Saab.

No one was around, no one was in danger and, in the process, I learned a thing or two about how the old bus handles when it slides. Okay, hooning around in the snow isn’t big or clever but, at that time, it was perfectly safe, and I learned a thing or two about controlling a skid in that car. Better there, than on the roads – and sometime in the future, on a slippy road in the middle of the night, that kind of knowledge might come in handy.

So, the next time it snows a little, don’t stay at home whingeing about the bad weather, get out, find somewhere empty, and hone your driving skills…

Keith Adams


  1. I can remember the very cold winter of 1978-79, the so called Winter of Discontent, where a very harsh winter was made worse by all the strikes. I can remember in January 1979, the family’s old Mark 2 Cortina freezing up on the inside as it was so cold and the weedy single speed heater struggling to defrost the inside of the car, while the wjndows kept frosting up, making a 2 mile journey interesting to say the least.
    Also I can remember a terrible journey back from the North East, which had an even harder winter than Cumbria, where the A69 wasn’t gritted due to strike action and most people being unable to go faster than 10 mph due to the ice, and the journey made worse by a bus skidding and overturning. Nowadays, with cars having air conditioning, heated windscreens and more powerful heaters, it makes me laugh when an inch of snow makes things grind to a halt.

    • I remember 78/9 as well – stuffed my 3 week old Chevette into a ditch in the Lincolnshire Wolds one morning on the way to work at a garage after the gritting lorry cut a bend leaving black ice on the road. Local garage got its old WW2 breakdown truck to pull me out and then pulled the front back to a more reasonable shape using a chain so I could proceed.
      It’s been a good foot of snow in Shropshire this week and found that my 4wd Suzuki really needs a proper diff lock.
      The news go bezerk when temperatures go to -15C near London but it’s much more common in Scotland where they hardly get a mention. Worth remembering that grtting salt apparently stops working below -10C.

  2. winter 86/87. I had my first car, a 66 Beetle and lived furthest away from the garage where I was apprentice. I was 17 and a 1/2, stupid and fearless. tied rope through the vents in the rear wheels and my 6 volt Beetle with its phenomenally hot heater was first in to work, albeit 20 minutes late. Snow was about 2 foot deep and I learned more about car control there than I ever did in a skid car at the police driving school….

    • The beetle with its narrow and tall tyres and lots of weight on the driven wheels had very good traction in winter. But as far as I remember its heater was hot only in summer when the bowden cables for the control flaps got stuck in the “open/hot” position.

      • I have a 66 at the minute. Its heater is so good its hot after 1/4 mile and used properly in conjunction with the 1/4 vents its surprisingly good at demisting. Far better than other cars of the era

  3. Two snowflakes meet in the air.
    “Where do you go?”
    “To the Arctis. There’s billions of us, that must be wonderful!”
    “You’re mad. Let’s go to XXX (put your favourite town in here), all two of us, and cause complete traffic chaos!”

  4. Quote “So, in reality, we didn’t get a blast of Arctic weather, or anything like it.”

    I have to take issue with you there , Keith . Your Siberian colleague’s climate was Polar Continental which produces large quantities of dry snow ( the same largely applies in central North America ) . We, on the other hand , suffer a Polar Maritime airstream, which because it travels across nearly 2,000 miles of relatively warm sea picks up much more moisture which is what makes our snow rather unpleasant to deal with even in small quantities. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that because we are surrounded by warm sea, thawing and refreezing is a very common occurrence, converting relatively benign snow to very nasty ice

  5. This current snow fall is very localised and unpredictable – so in my home town we had 4″ and the main A361 was virgin snow with a few frozen tyre tracks but 20 miles away it a light flurry and starting to rain. I intend to get my little Fiat 500 to a town some 25 miles away but the A419 was totally blocked. (With traction control on we were unstoppable in third gear at a fast walking pace).
    I have only three words for the moaners, the dispirited ones, the stuck ones and generally “the council should have kept the roads clear” ones – nineteen sixty three!
    It’s Monday morning and we have just checked the schools open in our area. Almost none. The roads are slushy at the sides with wet Tarmac in the centre. It is thawing fast.
    My gosh! If we had had this attitude in 1963 the schools would have been closed for nearly three months!
    How can these people see the conditions, half clear the screen and set off! No spade, no wellies!
    Our modern cars are so competent, so sophisticated, the roads are so much better – but apart from a few diehards, the only thing that’s gone downhill is our British attitude!
    Well done all those who just kit up and get on with it!

  6. Picked up our “new” car on Tuesday, a 2014 Landrover Freelander auto, replacing a 2004 Discovery.
    Snow on Friday had caused the usual chaos with many hills being unpassable to 2wd cars. Not so the Freelander, engaged “snow grass gravel” on the terrain response and just let it do its thing, completely effortless.

  7. It’s a bit more than a few flakes of snow across much of the Midlands. As usual, all of those RWD “drivers cars” are left struggling (I helped push six while out for a walk yesterday) and some supposed 4x4s weren’t finding it too easy because of the ridiculous tyre choices.

    • Used to live at the top of a hill, wouldn’t be the first time I saw something like an expensive looking new M class Merc being abandoned, while an old Peugeot 106 in skinny tyres just cut through the snow and ran up the hill like a mountain goat.

  8. My Herefordshire village was featured on Monday’s Midlands Today for being ‘totally cut off’ – the pub landlady claimed no-one could get in or out… which was interesting as I had driven 25 miles on country lanes, A and B roads to get to work with little problem, just careful driving!
    The rural builders’ merchants I work at had about 90% of staff attendance on Monday despite about a foot of snow in the area. Those who couldn’t drive in walked or were happy to be collected by others in 4x4s. We shovelled tonnes of snow by hand and did a roaring trade in rock salt, snow shovels, Calor gas, etc. I don’t understand why so much of the country gets hysterical and grinds to a halt at the first sight of snow!

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