I’m (mostly) only truly cruel when it comes to weather wussiness. I’m not talking about the hundreds of people stranded on the highway near Sarnia who need helicoptering out (seriously, that’s a bad storm), but walking to the bus stop today in ankle-deep snow, the weather people on the radio announced a ‘high of -10°C’ and 5-10cm of snow. And I thought ‘No problem’. And I remembered (yet another) time I made an ass of myself.
It was late December and I was living in Birmingham, curled up with a discounted hot chocolate in a postgraduate lounge that I had only just discovered the existence of and reading my (again) discounted Guardian. And I overheard this:
‘They say it’s going down to -10° this weekend! -10°!’
‘Oh well, at least it’ll be too cold to snow.’
I very suddenly, and unexpectedly, howled with laughter, which, not shockingly, got me a bit of a curious look from the CLEARLY DELUSIONAL pair who, obviously, thought I might be mad as well.
By way of explanation, I offered ‘I’m sorry, but I’m Canadian, and that is absolutely untrue. I’ve seen it snow at -20°C with even colder wind-chill. It’s rare, but it happens.’
I don’t know think that my smug, know-it-allism endeared me to them in any way, so I hid behind my newspaper until they left.
Later that week, I nearly fell off my chair after hearing a newsreader on Midlands Today warning people of ‘drifts of up to an inch’ along one of the motorways. My flatmate knocked on the door to see if I was all right, but she was from Zambia and didn’t really get the joke.
Since then, I have been known to revel in poor weather in the UK, even though I haven’t lived there in six years. I find it bizarre that even a small amount of snow results in tabloid headlines blaming Siberian winds for their current ‘frigid’ (ie -8°C) temperatures. It does snow every year there, but it always comes as a shock (seemingly) and the country shuts down. I especially enjoy when headlines scream ‘TEMPERATURES HIT -18°C!!!’ and they are actually talking about the windchill at the top of Ben Nevis.
I understand panic when it’s an unexpected 10+cm because it’s a country of snowtirelessness, but a bit of slush shouldn’t stop people getting out and doing things, really. And I kind of understand hyperbole about weather, because we do it too. And we do share the British tradition of talking about the weather a LOT. BUT, the U.K. is a nation that excels at, to borrow a now-clichéd bit of propaganda, keeping calm and carrying on through wars and terrorist attacks and Thatcherism (okay, maybe there was less calm there). Why should winter always be such a catastrophe? Get some good boots, put on an extra sweater, and you can do almost anything.