The Picnic


Despite living in a country where the most extreme of weather conditions pass us by, we are fascinated and almost obsessed with it as a conversation topic. While most of the rest of the world suffers from genuinely life threatening weather systems, here in the UK we stand more chance of being bored to death by the weather than actually getting harmed by it. Of course, there’s always a scenario when someone manages to get on the wrong side of mother nature but, by and large, she bypasses us and focuses her more aggressive streak on the rest of the world. In this country our chances of getting even slightly injured by the weather are, thankfully, very remote and usually the cause of anything more serious is down to us not taking it seriously enough as opposed to being on the wrong end of one of mother natures moods.Almost every year though there seems to be a news story where someone has gone out in the middle of winter in an attempt to climb Ben Nevis armed only with a compass, flip flops and a slice of Kendal mint cake only to end up needing to be rescued after getting lost or killed.Or both. Lately though, mother nature HAS been in a bad mood and has turned her attention in our direction.Last year, at about this time, spring had sprung and the sun was shining and everyone was looking forward to long hot summer days and and nights. The sun had shone continuously for nearly a week, doctors were rushing into radio and tv studios to warn us that anymore that 10 seconds exposure to the sun would result in certain death and friends of the earth were telling us it was all our fault for driving cars. Then, worried that their profits were quite literally drying up, water company bosses announced that unless we got some rain pretty darn quickly we would all have to use stand pipes in the streets for our running water, the army would have to be dispatched to keep the peace and we’d only be allowed to flush the toilet at weekends.Then, luckily enough for them, Mother nature heard his pleas….and it’s promptly pissed down with rain ever since.

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“what do you mean it’s not deep.. I’m standing on the car”

And not just a bit of rain either. Every bit of available rain has been dumped on the UK since. It won’t be long before the council will be telling us to put our rubbish in bin bags and asking us to store rain in our wheelie bins. The boats in last years Thames flotilla could easily have been sailed down the mall instead and the Queen could have watched it all from the balcony at the palace instead. In some parts of the country the sun has been seen so rarely that when it did manage to make an appearance some locals have been spotted throwing sticks at it and drowning the village witch just in case it’s all sorcery. Soon it won’t just be the people of the midlands that are born with webbed feet.Then as winter approached the rain stopped,just in time for a few bouts of snow. We were told that local authorities were primed and ready to deal with anything that mother nature could chuck at them and, to be fair, for a little while they succeeded. In order to get through a snowy spell I believe that we need two things in equal measure;grit and determination. The council provides the grit and we’re expected to demonstrate the determination to get to work and get on with our everyday lives and make some effort but it appears that we’ve turned into a nation of wimps who would rather stay in.The first two bouts of snow this winter were kind enough to fall during the night and were widely publicised in advanced meaning that the chances of getting caught out were, thankfully, small and the roads were treated well and despite it being cold and crappy, life went on as normal. However, this week,things were different. Despite the temperature rising as high as 7 degrees and the sun making a rare appearance the week before, Sunday nights weather forecasters put on their serious faces and warned that winter would be back again, and sure enough as I drove to work on Monday morning a few bits of powdery snow were beginning to fall but not settle. Throughout the day, gale force winds blew and snow showers arrived but nothing settled and just after 6pm I left to start my journey home. As I drove along the motorway and got closer to home I was made aware that there was a delay ahead as a car had overturned so phoned home to let Cally know I would be late. It was at this time whilst crawling along at 3mph that she told me that Sevenoaks was at a virtual standstill due to the volume of snow that had fallen. Now, I’m prepared to own up that I assumed that this was just hearsay or exaggeration and all would be ok when I got there. How wrong I was.

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So near,yet so far.

My usual journey home is about 25 minutes and about 16 miles from door to door. After about an hour, I had got past the upturned car but the snow was now falling and settling. Because the roads were not being used the snow had settled and cars were already losing control and sliding even on a flat surface.After another fairly lengthy delay I finally got off the motorway with just over 3 miles left to go, a road that would eventually take me 3 hours to travel along. I called home, and the word back was that some people were taking to Facebook to say they were already abandoning their cars as they were unable to complete their journey home and that it was taking some people hours to travel even a few hundred yards. At that point I resigned myself to a late homecoming and resorted to a patient if somewhat tricky crawl home. I called home yet again to say that my battery was running low and that I suggested that she get herself some dinner and I’d sort myself out once I got in, the message back was that she was already doing that. And as she sounded out of breath, I assumed she was walking through the snow to the supermarket to get that organised. About an hour and a half later I received a call asking me where I was and how far I’d got, the answer was not very far at all and I was, in truth, only a mile or so further up the road, running out of fuel and patience.

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There must be a special Audi drivers training school where they are taught how to be selfish and block junctions.

And then I got an inkling as to what it might be like to be that aforementioned unprepared mountain climber when the rescue teams do finally arrive. As I looked out through the windscreen, emerging from out of the snow and waving furiously, was Cally. Normally we travel just about everywhere by car including the 1 minute drive to the supermarket, but she had decided that this was a thing of the past.She had been off work that day suffering from sickness and a migraine but, determined to spend some time together, she had walked the 3 or so miles from home,via the shops,to meet me in the traffic while clutching what will be the best picnic ever. I was utterly amazed to see her, and ever so grateful as I was bored, hungry and lonely. Still slightly taken aback by her unexpected arrival, I watched as she began handing out the food she’d bought and we both quickly tucked in to the finest that the good folk of ginsters have to offer,plus crisps and chocolate bars which I can assure you is truly the food that every stranded motorist should have.Then for the next 2 and a half hours we sat together laughing at the inability of other motorists to drive in the snow as well as at the manufacturers of those cars who seem incapable of building one that can travel up a slight incline in a bit of ice and snow.Whilst we were definitely getting bored and tired I could have quite happily sat there all night, just me and her. And a few thousand other motorists. For her to have done that just for me has actually blown me away. We arrived home a little after 11pm. During that journey home people got out of their cars and spoke to other motorists about their individual nightmare journeys home, homeowners along the route of the blocked roads were opening their doors to allow the stranded access to toilets and some even found themselves with a cup of tea in their hands. It seems that even in this modern world where motorists only really talk to each other by using sign language and mimed threats, when needs must, we do revert back to civilised people and pull together.

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I discovered that the awd badge on this car actually stands for awful woman driver.

The next day we got up at normal time and struggled to even get out of the village but did eventually manage to get onto the motorway. As we got closer to work the weather conditions improved with almost every turn of the wheel, to the point where when we got to our destination the sun was out, the snow had gone and life seemed to be carrying on as normal. Ours was the only car that had any snow on it and people were driving past us looking puzzled as where we had got it all from. The picture below shows the snow drift we had to drive through to get to work and the normality of life at work when we got there.The pictures were taken just 15 miles and 3 hours apart and the reason I took them was to prove to my disbelieving work colleagues that I had a justifiable reason for being late. A previous blog of mine was posing the question “what did I learn this week” and to carry that theme on a bit,this journey taught me a lot. It has taught me that if I’d have listened to Cally’s original instruction to go home via the back roads rather than the motorway, I would have been home a good 3 hours earlier. But then her mammoth trek wouldn’t have happened, we would never have had our snowy impromptu picnic and l wouldn’t have witnessed at first hand just how powerful determination can be when put to good use.

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