We Brits are famous for complaining when the Wrong Kind of Snow snarls up the networks. The trains don’t run, schools shut, and there’s a run on store-cupboard ingredients in the shops. The Daily Mail or some other self-styled Voice of The People is sure to announce that ‘We’re the laughing stock of Europe and America’.
Well, actually, life grinds to a halt when it snows in some parts of Europe too. Here for instance. There has been no schools’ transport all week: and with many children living out in the sticks, schools have been half empty. Markets, where we go to shop, catch up with jobs in town and to meet everyone we know, have pretty much not functioned for 10 days or more. Clubs and walking groups, concerts lectures and meetings: all have been cancelled or postponed. We’ve all left our cars at home and confined ourselves to doing what we can on foot.
Don’t we have snow ploughs here? Well, of course we do. In big communes like ours (there are 2000 of us you know), council workers do the job. In more rural spots, farmers may be pressed into service. But either way, they’ve all been to the same training school. After they’ve done their rounds, the ploughs leave an inch of hard-packed, glossily polished snow especially for drivers to enable their cars to take up skating. Lethal stuff.
We’d hoped to drive to Barcelona this weekend to see Emily. Reading the local government website’s travel section soon changed our minds. We were recommended to use snow chains on several of the roads on our route. On others we’d be required to use them. Conditions are described as ‘very snowy’, ‘difficult’, and everyone we know says ‘Don’t go’. So we shan’t: not till the snow goes anyway.
As in the UK, radio TV and the local papers are filled with stories of the Big Snow. The empty roads, the jack-knifed lorries (actually though, HGVs are kept off many of the main arteries and have either to turn back or make use of temporary lorry depots opened up for their use), the utilities failures, the heart-warming human interest stories – they’re all there. The snow stopped some days ago, but the sub-zero temperatures remain, and so the snow’s till here. What is different from England though, is the sky. Through the day, we’ve enjoyed a cloudless duck-egg blue sky. And that’s something to be relished.