Friday, 6 February 2009

Snow on the road

The snow came in across England today, heavy and cold. With the temperature around -2°C, we were all expecting the country to grind to a halt. Sure enough, railway lines were closed, airports closed, buses were cancelled, and during the early morning, one-by-one, all but a few schools were closed. Total chaos. Mind you, there is some merit in the argument that with this kind of weather being so rare (last time it was like this was 18 years ago), it is clearly not worth investing in the kind of infrastructure that could withstand all this, so many people worked at home or just took the day off.

My daughter was due to do a day observing communication in a primary school across the valley, and my son wanted to spend the day at his friend's house near to the same school. So I gave them a lift and we got in the car and headed to the school, sticking to the main roads, which were gritted because they were bus routes. We were surprised that the primary school was open, and Vicky went in, after I told her I would wait until she told me it was definitely on. After ten minutes, she was on the phone in a bit of a quandary, because the teacher whose class she was observing told her that she should not have bothered, and should have stayed home. Vicky was perplexed, to say the least, since she had actually turned up and was ready to do the observation, but clearly, she was not wanted, so we picked her up again and set of for Dan's friend's house, which was on a small road off a narrow lane, which plunged into a valley. Although this road was not gritted, and was a steep narrow hill, I assumed we would be OK, because we were not going down the hill, but turning off, just beyond the crown.

As we approached the turning, the road was completely covered with snow, and quite slippy. I touched the brakes, as we were already on a slight incline, and the car lost all grip and started to slide completely out of control, but at a very low speed. We slid past the turning, and I could not regain control, as the hill grew steeper. and the car continued to slide, completely out of control, but finally the front end hit the left bank of the road, and the rear swing around until it hit the right bank of the lane. There we were, completely stuck, right across a narrow lane on an a hill. I had completely blocked the road, and nearly hit a pedestrian and her dog in the process. Some neighbours came out with their shovels, and we emptied a nearby grit bin all over the road. A couple of policemen came to help, too, and after an hour I finally managed to get us out without damaging the car. It was a bit stressful and quite hard work. I had stationed my son at the top of the hill, around the corner, to turn back any other cars, and he managed to get about 20 of them to not come through. One insisted on coming through because he thought he could park up and help, but he also lost control and only stopped by crashing into the grit bin! He tried to help, but just kept getting in the way. Finally, we got the grit on to the road, and the salt in the grit melted the snow, and I was able to manoevre the car back up the hill. It had taken about an hour, and I was pleased that there was no major damage to the people or to the car.

Anyway, we all got home safely, and now I am in the warm having a cup of coffee. And I am staying put!

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Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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