A Canadian’s thoughts on British snow

#snow #leeds what a day to be commuting t’werk in the snuh #beastfromtheeast

A post shared by Heather Hewer (@heather.hewer) on

Many people asked me what I thought of the snow this week in Yorkshire. On one hand, it’s been a laughable amount to this intrepid Canadian, but on the other hand, I can’t join in to the jokes that colder, snowier countries are making.

People have died. People have been stranded in their cars, stranded on trains, stranded at home.

It all boils down to infrastructure. Countries and cities that regularly experience heavy snowfall have the means to remove it and melt it, while I can only guess that many parts of the UK have a seriously limited contingency plan. In contrast, Montreal’s snow-removal budget for 2017 was $159 million. When we lived in Ottawa, I remember seeing special snow melting trucks slowly rumbling down our street during particularly heavy snowfalls.

But you simply can’t expect a nation that rarely has to deal with snow to have a good handle on things when it does. And it doesn’t matter how familiar I am with walking on snowy and icy sidewalks – when I’m on the bus, I’m still at the mercy of the driver’s abilities. I distinctly felt my bus slide to a stop a couple of times at red lights. An in-town journey that usually takes 15 minutes took 40 minutes on Thursday morning. I can completely understand why people commuting from further away chose to take snow days.

And why not? Why endanger themselves when something a bit unusual is happening? Schools and nurseries were closed for part of the week, so many people had no choice but to stay home. I heard stories of families playing in the snow – tobogganing in Chapel Allerton Park, making snowmen, making memories with their kids.

And who doesn’t love a snow day? I was really impressed with how seriously the office I temped in handled various staff members’ decisions to stay home. There was no shaming, no ridicule, no sarcastic  ‘air quotes’ about working from home. If I’m honest, I was a bit sad that I didn’t live far away enough to have a snow day myself!

I grew up in the country, on an unpaved rural road. If I heard my parents listening to the local radio station before 6:30 am, I knew it was only a matter of time before my bus and/or school would be cancelled. We’d also get an early-morning phone call if the buses weren’t running. I would snuggle back down under the covers, grateful for a reprieve from math quizzes and science projects; smug in the knowledge that my brothers and I would likely spend most of the day tobogganing. Turning on the radio in the mornings this week transported me straight back to that feeling, except I had to continue putting on my makeup and checking bus times.

I also have a happy memory of my father from when I was about 16. One icy, snowy night he picked me up in town, but we had to ditch our car on an icy road about a mile from our house. We left my shopping bags in the car, and walked hand in hand to keep each other from slipping. It was nice to have my dad take such good care of me.

So it doesn’t matter that the phrases ‘freezing rain’ and ‘ice storm’ strike more fear in my heart than the prospect of snow. All that matters is that everyone does their best to stay safe and warm.

Advertisements

One thought on “A Canadian’s thoughts on British snow

  1. My niece and nephew live out in the country as well and frequently find their buses have been canceled, not so much due to ice and snow, but due to the liability the busing companies don’t want to take on. My wife and her siblings went to the same school and on the rare occasions that buses were canceled, their father packed them into the 4×4 pick-up truck and dropped them off himself. Now we joke that the niece and nephew miss so much time in the school year that they will be in their thirties by the time they finish high school. If fact, last year there was very serious talk about extending the school year by a week or two so that students met the required time in class.

    I have to say that I do get a bit irritated by people who mock those that deal with snow infrequently and simply don’t know how to cope with it. I recall the snowstorm 20 years ago where the Canadian Armed Forces were called in to help dig out Toronto. In fact, it was three major snowstorms in the span of ten days and the city had sold off or retired half of its snow removal fleet because our annual snowfalls had diminished, on average, by half of what they had been in the 1970s. But it’s fun for non-Toronto Canadians to hate Toronto, so we take it without chiding Winnipeggers of the stupidity of building houses on the Red River flood plane or those on Vancouver Island about their inability to deal with even modest snowfalls.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s