The uselessness of the English (particularly the southern English) when it comes to coping with snow is notorious. Passengers sit kicking their heels in airports around the world, because at Heathrow or Luton we can’t get the snow off the runways. Here, this morning, hundreds of schools are closed, forcing parents to stay at home even if their workplaces are open.
We don’t have the right tyres on our cars, and when we can’t drive any further we abandon them leaving an obstruction for those coming behind. We don’t bother to clear the snow in front of our houses, thus ensuring pedestrians compress it into something akin to a skating rink. A lot of us don’t even own snow shovels or a bag of grit.
There’s something infantilizing about all this and the media play along with it, playing videos of children throwing snowballs. It feels like we’re not living in a serious country. Not in a place where people believe in the value of work. It can get intensely annoying.
However consider this. The amount of time (and enthusiasm) anyone spends preparing for something to happen is a based on a judgement as to how likely it is to happen.
I remember once in Budapest speaking to a couple of Americans in a bar and they cheerfully admitted that though they were working there on long term contracts they had decided not to learn any Hungarian. The relatively small number of people in the world who speak that language meant that the effort of learning it was not justified.
In the same way, here in England we could work hard, both individually and at a government level, preparing for snow and ice. The Germans have all kinds of laws about this, and all around the year, even in 30○ summer heat, you can see notices stating who’s responsible for the 'Winter Duty' of clearing the snow away.
But that kind of rigid discipline is not the English way.
This six inch snowfall only happens every four years or more. (In fact it’s seven years since I’ve seen snow like this outside my window.) It’s an intense nuisance that we’re so little prepared. But, our climate is intensely unpredictable and not preparing is a judgement we make, about the best use of our limited time and resources.
So next time I am cursing the general uselessness of the authorities, I will try and calmly tell myself that this is a judgement we’ve made. And remind myself that, in any decision making, probability and pragmatism should not be neglected.