OK, so the UK is not known for its ability to deal with any sort of weather that could be classed as ‘out of the ordinary’ (ie, not damp and grey) but let’s ignore that fact and just accept that everything went bonkers in Bumpkinstown last night.
There was a teeny bit of snow in London and it was cold, but I fell asleep on the train and woke up in some kind of winter wonderland. I only had to drive 7 miles from the station though and I set out, pulled onto the main road and…stopped. Nothing was moving – Bumpkinstown and all the surrounding areas were gridlocked. Having left home at 5.30am, left the office at 4.30pm and got back to the station at 6.15pm, I finally got back to Bumpkinsville at just gone 11pm. Yup, nearly 5 hours to drive 7 miles. That’s not the story though.
It was stressful (hooray for my new years resolution or I would have been completely bald by the time I got home!) and it was boring (hooray for mobile phones and Face book – and the friends at the other end of both) and it was scary (hooray for an amazing Sister 2 who sat on speaker phone and talked me through how to actually get up a hill that has turned to sheet ice when I was shaking like a leaf and almost crying as I watched the car in front repeatedly loose control). But actually, there were some really lovely parts too…:
- It was the first time in many years that I’d spent time with my head out of the window catching snowflakes in my mouth. It’s quite liberating – especially when Bradley-less :o)
- On the first hill of terror I realised that some very lovely people weren’t standing at the side of the road watching as people lost control of their cars – they were waiting, ready to push the cars that couldn’t make the hill.
- Approaching the second hill of terror, as Sister 2 talked me down from near hysteria (I’m not a competent driver, let alone a confident one), I realised there was another group of people, waiting to do the same. I can not describe the relief I felt when I saw them – at least I was less likely to fall back down the hill and into other cars.
- I passed a lovely lady standing in the arctic conditions, with a teapot and mugs of lovely warm tea that she offered to all the people that passed. I would have killed for one – had it not been for the fact that I had been desperate for a wee for about 4 hours at that point!
- Today I discovered, through the power of social media, that someone had posted that a lady with two young children was stranded as the trains were no longer running…and a complete stranger went and got her and the children, fed them and put them up for the night before driving them to the station this morning. That was more than lovely.
My own little ‘thing’ though was that, about 3.5 hours into the epic journey I realised that I was missing a trick. I could continue to panic and grump, or I could enjoy it a bit. So I unwound my window and grinned like a mad thing at the cars on the other side of the road. Despite the fact that I must have looked like a loon (and possibly due to complete boredom on their part) a lot of people wound down their windows and had a chat. I met some really lovely people – we swapped times, distances, where the iciest patches were and where people were standing by to help. And how far we could have flown in the time we’d been stuck in our cars. Strangely, despite the fact that I was very cold, tired, hungry and in desperate need of a toilet, I almost enjoyed myself! See what a smile can do? ;o)
To all the heroes out there last night, thank you – you were all fantabulous!
And now I’m staying inside until spring is well established. Just to be on the safe side…
Absolutely terrifying but I’m glad you found the right spirit in the end. It’s the Blitz spirt, really, isn’t it? One of the things we Brits are famous for – even if it’s only amongst ourselves.
A very, very similar thing happened to me some 10 years ago. I was taking a group of small girls to their gym class in High Wycombe. When I saw how fast the snow was falling so we turned out of the car park and it was gridlock all five miles home. There was no way to get back to our village without a steep hill, I was low on petrol and low on phone charge. I knew how to drive a manual in slidey conditions but I was driving an automatic. Yikes!
Have to say, I’m glad of the heat here, right now but I hope the snow doesn’t last too long.
I was thinking the same today about the similarities with the war time spirit – suddenly the fondest that older people looked back in it made sense.
I did feel a bit daft being scared, but I don’t think I was the only one – and I imagine like you, my night will stay with me for a long time! At least I didn’t have a herd of children with me!