Ice, Ice Baby

As a Brit, I enjoy talking about the weather. It’s what we do. We frown at the sky. We grumble and compare the weather of today to the weather of our youths. We complain about its every aspect. We prophesise worse times to come in the coming days before muttering “Ah well, musn’t grumble” and continuing with our day.
The Irish are also keen on talking about the weather. They prefer to take a more direct approach with no chance of disagreement and state what the weather is doing rather than the more disagreeable British style.
Once you have greeted somebody, the usual line of conversation is to comment on the current climate conditions, state whether it is better or worse than during the previous days, remember a time many years before when it was just like this but something happened to somebody’s livestock as a result of it (which may or may not have happened this time around), state what the forecast is for the coming days and state either relief or concern at that prospect.

At the moment it is very cold. Freakishly cold. In some parts of Ireland it has been dropping to -12C at night. Even here in the Sunny South East it was getting down to -5C. In the 6 and a half years I’ve lived here, I’ve had to defrost the car maybe half a dozen times. In the last fortnight, it’s needed doing every day.
This type of weather is really unusual for here. It hardly ever gets below zero but at the moment, the ground is frozen so even when there is a bit of respite, the thawing frost refreezes and we’re back where we started. This causes something of a problem with the roads.

The Irish are not good drivers. They don’t need to be. Until recently, anybody who was on their second provisional license did not require a qualified driver in the car with them, which rather destroyed the need for people to sit a test at all. Some years ago, the waiting lists for new drivers to sit the test was so long they arbitrarily awarded licences to the people who had been on the list for the longest times. The man who won the Wexford Rally in September is currently one year into a five year ban for causing death by dangerous driving. He has no apparent problems obtaining a racing licence nor any apparent twinges of conscience; he competed in a race mere weeks after managing to drive his 911 into a wall, killing his wife and injuring his mate, but remaining unscathed himself. The Irish Independent referred to him as a “local hero” in their write up of his racing victory.

It is with some trepidation then, that I have been examining the road surfaces. It is gut wrenching enough at times driving over here, so you can appreciate I was not looking forward to driving on ice.
Happily, I am just about old enough to have sat the driving theory test when applying for my own licence and because I am extraordinarily good looking and clever, scored a hundred percent – an achievement which is rarer than I would have expected it to be. It is because of this that I know how to drive on ice, even if I have never done it before. So, when I turned left at the end of the road and found the car was unable to gain enough traction to get up the hill, I did not immediately panic and drive into a hedge as Mammy would have done but instead calmly slipped it into fourth and smugly made my way the two miles up to the main road where driving was better.
Apart from that first worrying five minutes, it was really rather nice. I’ve never managed to drive at anything less than 59mph on the main road without getting overtaken with much gesticulating but on that day, everybody was driving at 50mph. It was great. I’d forgotten how relaxing driving without somebody nudging your rear bumper and flashing manically is.

That was on the first day of the cold snap. After that, it got much worse. He Who Knows Everything and I were driving behind a bus. HWKE braked gently to be greeted with a terrible screeching noise and the worrying prospect of explaining to his wife why there was a wall shaped dent in the front bonnet of her car. As HWKE was required to do an Advanced Driving Course many years ago, he was able to keep control of the car and disaster was averted but it was still a perturbing experience and not one I am keen to repeat.

Much of the problem is caused by the fact that the councils don’t appear to be gritting the roads with the amount of vigilance the conditions would suggest they need to be doing; if at all.
This cold weather has not come out of the blue. It was predicted well in advance and, for once, all of the forecasts have been accurate about the harshness of it. If we had all woken up one morning to a blizzard, then I could appreciate why the councils have been so lax with their gritting. As it is, all they can do is claim they have had a lorry on it every single day but won’t be any more because they’ve run out of salt. If the N25 has been salted every single day since this weather started, I’m a custard filled pudding.
The simply hideous accident in Gorey should have been a wakeup call. It hasn’t been. I know it has been Christmas and I know these are unusual circumstances, but the councils have had plenty of warning and they’ve just crossed over into a shiny new financial year. Get the council check books out and sort it. Please.

This cold weather is set to continue for another week at least and it’s even beginning to cause me some problems. You see, I live in a field. To get to the main road from my field, one has to drive two miles on roads covered in snow and ice which haven’t been gritted at all. I’ve got my fingers crossed a thaw happens before I run out of tea.

Hope all your new years are going well and you are slightly less stranded than I am.


sarah said...

the japanese do that too
talk about the weather a lot

the end

Anonymous said...

In the tradition of wanting something you can't have: I wish it was cold and icy outside so I could hole up in my house all day. We're melting down here.

Theo said...

Durdlin - So I understand. I have a sort of Cousin (about 18 times removed) over in Queensland and he is either complaining about the heat, or the floods.

Sarah - I love the Japanese. I love that they don't want to be tipped most of all.