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The White Crisis

December 21, 2010

For all you white supremacists who happen on this post, move on swiftly – what follows is nothing to do with race, and everything to do with snow.

This is a version of my latest column in Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News which was published today. You can see the original here.

How the British love a crisis! And no crisis suits us better than an extreme weather event like the current cold spell that has closed airports, blocked roads and cut off thousands in remote locations across the United Kingdom.

It gives us a perfect excuse to curse the airlines for giving us insufficient information about flights – the airlines tell us to contact the airports, and the airports tell us to talk to the airlines. We rail at the politicians for leaving us unprepared for an event that only happens once every 30 years. The media rejoices in regaling us with stories about weary travelers at Heathrow and Gatwick. And one glorious photo of two men clearing a runway seemingly on their own. “Will you look at those eejits with shovels!” says my wife, shrieking with laughter at a scene that reminded her of her native Ireland. We worry about running out of this and that, about further looming disruptions to our safe, comfortable lives.

In the Royston household we had our own little travel crisis as our younger daughter struggled to reach us in Bahrain. Frantic calls between daughter, airline, taxi firms, airport, supportive friends finally delivered her to us after 24 hours of tribulation and wading though bodies at Gatwick and Doha. Here’s her Facebook take on the experience:

“So it’s taken just over 24 hours of waiting and flying, eating and looking like a tramp, meeting and becoming best friends with loads of Aussie randomers (plus an Italian airport cleaner) seeing people getting very annoyed and being annoyed at them…because they are annoyed! My  arms have toned up nicely from the amount of times I had to pick up and put down my heavy hand luggage. Saw many films during the flight, including Inception (which through the whole film I was in shock and confusion as my brain was half mush at this point from all the flight hassle). My jaw was slack pretty much through the whole film. When it ended, I saw my reflection in the mirror of the small TV and realised what a total retard I looked like. Anyhow I’m finally safe with mama and dada.”

Perceptions of adversity are not what they were. I’m old enough to remember the Great Freeze of 1963, when my friends and I spent many happy hours tunneling through 12-foot snow drifts, blissfully unaware of the potential of a snow collapse to snuff out our young lives. No health and safety in those days. And the whole country was white for three months.

As I was manning the family Situation Room during the daughter crisis, I thought of my maternal grandfather, who spent two Christmases on the Western Front During World War I. Here’s the entry in his diary for Christmas 1917:

 Xmas Day. Rather incongruous to think of peace and goodwill when we are at war.  I got up at 9am., it was snowing heavily and did so again this afternoon.  The Germans were very active with high explosive shells and shrapnel.  Went up to Foch Farm for tea and back to the mess at Canal Bank for dinner.  We had a nice cheery dinner indeed. It was well cooked and all were in good spirits…. A very enjoyable day and no bombing for a change.”

As the people of Britain in 2010 battle with the coldest Christmas season for years, and grumble about travel chaos and rising fuel prices, a reminder that the occupants of the Western Front would have swapped their lives for ours at any time of year.

No apologies for the excerpts from the previous post – re-use of content in a different context!

From → History, Social, UK

One Comment
  1. Gerry Meade permalink

    very good…enjoyed it….g

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