There has been several inches of snow overnight. This is what the weather forecasters in the UK often say. What they actually mean is that if the wind blows the snow up against a wall, it might, after several hours, be several inches deep. As I made myself an expresso in order to write this post, I looked out of our kitchen window and could not help notice that here is several inches of snow outside. Of course what I mean by several inches is, by now about 15 inches and when I say outside, I mean everywhere, not piled up against walls. As I speak those inches are increasing.
Now here is the thing, and humour me if it gets boring, as I have mentioned this before, but Ukraine copes with it. People don't necessarily enjoy it, apart from the kids being dragged to school on sleds, by their parents or more often grandparents, but they get on with things. The snow has been so heavy that even Odessa's well equipped roads department did not manage to keep up with clearing the main roads, yet yesterday when we drove to the mall, buses, trollies and trains were running, people were going to work or shopping despite the roads and pavements having the appearance of a vertically challenged alpine ski slope. Which brings me to the UK. It seems to me that when there is several inches of snow in the UK, everything grinds to a halt. Schools are closed, offices are empty, shops sell out of the basics. Why? Firstly schools, I remember snow when I was a kid. I am pretty sure it was the same stuff the UK get's today, and yes, the buses were often very very late, because a. the council run out of grit or b. the council ignored the weather forecasts and didn't grit. As kids, we had this quite amazing solution to the problem, we walked. My school was just under three miles from my house even in the deepest snow, several inches against a wall, it took about an hour. If we were late, the teacher's understood and forgave us. Does any one recognize something odd about that statement, no not teachers forgiving, teachers went to school in the snow too. Not once, ever, in my entire school life do I remember having a day off because of snow. Here in Odessa, we live next to a Kindergarten, and every day, despite the snow, we see the kids coming to school, sometimes walking, sometimes on sled but always well wrapped up and having fun.
So lets look at the work and offices. OK, if you live in the deep in the country and work in the city you may be excused this one. But, what if you live in the suburbs? Well, even if the buses don't run the trains usually do, at least the suburban services. If there is no train service you could also walk. I remember one particularly snowy week in the early ninety where I walked to and from work three consecutive days. It must have been close I hear you cry, yes it was, I lived in Cheam, Surrey and my work was in Fulham, London, a mere eight and half miles or seventeen miles a day round trip. But here is the irony, it took about just over two hours, which was about the same time it took by public transport on a bad day, if you factored in the walk to the bus stops and trains station. Ukrainians, go to work every day, despite the weather. This is not only because most Ukrainians have a very strong work ethic but also because if they don't go they won't get paid. For some people here thats the difference between food on the table or not.
For the life of me, I will never understand how supermarkets run out of essentials. Firstly it seems odd that all these people that cannot manage to get to work or school can still manage to get to Tesco's. Secondly that once they are at Tesco's they fill their shopping bags to the brim with bread milk and Tetley tea just in case they need to hunker down for several weeks. Now, my memory of UK winters may be fading, but I cannot remember a time when the snow lasted much more than three days. Usually by the third day its just a slushy horrible mess that is easily passable by trucks bearing bread, milk and Tetleys. We went to the shopping mall yesterday, despite the one foot of snow, on the ground not against the walls. When we got there, half the car park was unusable, but only because the giant snow plough the mall had hired, had not finished the second half yet. People came, parked in the first half, bought normal amounts of bread and milk, none bought Teltly's because Silpo doesn't sell it but the point is nobody was panic buying. This is for two reasons, firstly they knew the authorities in Odessa a. did have enough grit to cover the city and b. did watch the weather forecast. And of course the delivery drivers knew they could get into the shopping mall because there was a big fuck off snow plough clearing the car par.
There was an advert for Commercial Union in the 80's that had the tagline "We won't make a drama out of a crisis" These days some people can make a drama and a crisis out of a few inches of snow but most of them live in the UK