5 January 2010 – trapped in a blizzard


I struggled across the road

Global warming, what global warming? The snow started to fall at some point this afternoon. When you’re talking on the phone and staring at a succession of screens you tend to block out what’s going on around you so no one really noticed until it was quite a blizzard. By six o’clock we couldn’t actually see out at all. The outside world was a wall of white, as if someone had sneaked up a ladder and covered all the windows with paper. Then Karen Sidebottom, the CCM, walked round all the teams and told us to log off and go home while we could still get out of the building. The call centre was closing.

Rae had parked her car a little way up the road, close to the common. We battled our way through a cold, white snow ball, slipping and sliding on pavements we couldn’t even see and sank into the car encased in a thick coating of snow like two snowmen. It took us longer to get to the roundabout next to the office than it would normally take to get to my house, much longer. The whole city was wall to wall cars crawling so slowly they hardly seemed to be moving at all. Visibility was limited to the tail lights of the car in front, beyond that there was whiteness.

Mostly we talked about why they hadn’t gritted the roads, how far we’d come (or not), where we actually were (hard to tell when you can’t see anything) and if we were going to make it in once piece without someone sliding into us. It took us two hours to get to the bottom of the Big Hill. That’s an average speed of one mile and hour. I could have walked home faster but then I’d probably have died of hypothermia, got hit by a sliding car (we saw lots) or got lost. There were abandoned cars everywhere which didn’t help the flow of traffic.

I tried really hard to get Rae to leave her car in one of the side roads and stay at my house. She lives in Gosport about seventeen miles from me and I was worried about her making it there at all, especially as there are several steep hills along the route. We have a spare room, we have plenty of food, I have clothes that would fit her. She wouldn’t though so I left her there with a promise to call me when she got in and struggled across the road.

By midnight, I still hadn’t heard from her and I was getting worried so I called her. She was approaching the motorway at Bursledon, three miles from where I’d got out of the car four hours before. When she got to the hill leading up towards the windmill cars were slipping backwards on the ice and a gang of local people had come out to help push people, one by one, up to the top while the queue behind sat at the bottom waiting their turn. Other locals were bringing cups of coffee to the poor stranded drivers but Rae didn’t have one because she was bursting for the loo by this time. I told her to ask someone if she could use theirs or just get out of the car a pee behind the door. That’s what I would have done.

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