sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul

Wings Over Scotland

One Nation’s Day Off

Posted on January 18, 2013 by

In all the time I’ve lived in Bath, it’s snowed on average about once every five years. A combination of its south-west location and sitting in a big natural bowl means that there’s almost never a flake of the stuff in sight, let alone a drift. It’s always a welcome sight when it does arrive, because without it winter can really drag – six long months of grey, cold, dark and drizzle, whereas at least back home in Scotland you get a sense of time passing as the distinctive seasons change.

Well, today it snowed – a solid three or four inches. It’s lovely, and I’ve just been for a stroll in the city’s biggest park to enjoy it. It’s not going to be easy to turn a bit of chilly weather into a piece of searing polemic about Scottish independence, but dammit, where would the fun be in it if it was?

I live on a busy main road, along which traffic thunders in both directions from around 7am to 10pm every day. It’s extremely rare to go more than 10 seconds without a car, bus or lorry noisily passing the window, but today there’s been maybe one every 10 minutes. The place is deserted. Now, you might think that was only to be expected after three or four inches of snow, but here’s the thing – the road looks like this:

That, you might think, was a fairly navigable highway. And yet Bath has ground to a halt, as illustrated by the fact that I was able to stand in the middle of the road to take that picture. One friend reported four people managing to get in from his office of 40+. Another had a similar ratio, at three out of 32. A couple more were sent home after less than two hours, as there was no point in them being there by themselves.

Yet most of the roads, even off the main through routes, were in totally passable condition. Even the roads in the park itself, ungritted and barely-used at the best of times, presented no great problems:

And even if you were stuck up a side road somewhere, Bath is tiny. If you were too terrified to risk the car, you could walk from one corner of the city to the other in 20 minutes, maybe 25 in slippery conditions like these. There’s basically no excuse whatsoever for anyone in the city not making it to work today.

On the way home I passed a Co-op, remembered I was short of milk and popped to pick up a couple of two-litre jugs. This was the road outside the shop:

But these were the shelves inside:

Nobody had been panic-buying, you understand. They simply hadn’t had any deliveries of fresh produce – no bread, no veg, and (annoyingly) no milk. Their supplier hadn’t been able to make it through the incredible blizzard and half-millimetre coating of slushy residue holding them back from their rounds.

Now, you may snigger, chums. But this article ISN’T some boring gloat about how Scots are superior because we’d happily drive up Mount Everest if there was a chip shop at the top of it. There’s no shame in not being able to cope with weather you only experience for two or three days a decade, any more than Scotland would be able to manage a sudden 40-degree heatwave. We’d be dropping in the streets like flies.

And I have nothing but admiration and pride in my neighbours that at the first glimpse of an excuse, England’s populace flicked two fingers up at the inevitably-imminent bitching and whingeing from the CBI about the damage to the economy and buggered off to go sledging, young and old alike.

My point, dear readers, is merely this: we are NOT “one nation”. The Scots and English (and Welsh and Irish) are different peoples from different places, with much in common but just as many differences to celebrate and enjoy. It makes no more sense for us to be forced uncomfortably together in unequal, ill-tempered “union” than it does to marry the person next door just because they happen to be the nearest.

The English, fine folk as they are, by and large want different things to us. They want to “punch above their weight” in the world, where we just want to have friends. They want to stand apart from Europe, where we want to join in. They like to vote for Tories, a habit we gave up 60 years ago. And they hunker down like panicky survivalists in weather that wouldn’t stop us popping out to Asda in our pyjamas.

It’s time for Scotland to wrap up warm, step outside and play.

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32 to “One Nation’s Day Off”

  1. Juteman says:

    At work today, a friend was busy on the phone to his insurance company doon sooth. He had suffered water damage due to a leak in an upstairs flat. He came off the phone after pressing a trillion buttons, and eventually being put through to the correct department. A recorded voice told him that the department he needed was closed due to the snow. :-)


  2. Davy says:

    Good for them, theirs nothing to beat a day off to go sledging.


  3. Ysabelle says:

    Looks lovely there. 

    Of course there are people in England who want a proper left wing party, or a social democratic party. So many people have been disenfranchised by New Labour and the antics of the LibDems, and regions have been neglected. However, it’s something that needs to be sorted out internally. It’s not Scotland’s responsibility to save England from itself. They need galvanised, and Scottish independence is the best way to achieve that. It automatically forces people to hear some of the planned changes in Scotland and then ask themselves what they want on their side of the border. It also raises the question of what Westminster and the British state will do if Scotland leaves. Will they take the opportunity to make serious reforms? It partly depends on how the cuts affect the public and whether politicians on all sides find themselves dealing with a huge level of anger that allows the likes of Labour to bring in long needed constitutional reforms. Then again, they might just wrap themselves in what remains of the Union flag, and go hell for leather down that One Nation track. It really comes down to whether the English left in particular is able to see the opportunities facing them. A yes vote could really benefit both sides. But first we have to work for that yes vote. 

    Here’s another example of what is wrong with the British state. If Scotland wins independence, I’d really like to see an end to this sort of thing: 


  4. AnneDon says:

    I shows that, in many ways, it’s London that’s the different country. with their macho insistence of DRIVING thru’ every type of weather.

    Although I think the past couple of winters have shown us that there is a generation of drivers who simply don’t know how to drive in the winter! 


  5. Ysabelle says:

    I would like to have edited my above comment to this at the beginning of paragraph two:

    Re: our countries mostly wanting different things. Of course there are people in England who want a proper left wing party, or a social democratic party of their own….

    But I couldn’t edit it! 


  6. muttley79 says:

    @Rev Stu

    Normally I hate asking personal questions but have you considered coming back to Scotland before the referendum?  We need all the big hitters we can get and your exchanges with Rennie, McColm and Torrance remind me of the Terminator…


  7. kininvie says:

    Maybe another way of looking at it is: life goes on as normal until it doesn’t. Three winters ago, after all, the M8 was closed for almost 24 hours and the transport minister resigned because central Scotland got about 50cms of snow. And most unpleasant it was too. But in Norway, it’s normal.
    What’s happening in Scotland is life increasingly not going on as normal. And people react differently – some ignore it; some get upset and angry; some decide it’s great fun and go out and build things


  8. Bob Howie says:

    Three years ago I was working in France and it was cold but for me it wasn’t because we were so far inland that it was dry, not the dampness we get and I was wearing my customary t-shirt and the French kept pointing and asking my French mate “why is he dressed like that”….”Ecossais” he would tell them…”Ah”. The day we left there was 3″ snow on the vehicles, I went down with the t-shirt on and cleared it off them with my bare hands, the passers by were astounded.
    We are a different race, we are a hardy bunch and we laugh in the face of adversity, that’s why so many Scots were explorers but you may not have heard of them as they didn’t get the recognition due to not being in the “right” circles.
    We have a chance to be in our own little circle where we don’t need connections to get on we just have to be here and do our little bit, whether it be in wind, rain or snow.


  9. Cuphook says:

    I once tried to visit the Native American Museum in New York after a blizzard only to find that it was closed due to the snow. Somehow, I had higher hopes of their ability to get to work. If you’ve ever seen NY go into action when it snows it’s quite impressive. People are out clearing the sidewalk in front of their offices, their scaffie trucks get turned into snow ploughs and diggers load snow into trucks which drive it out of the city. I guess that Native Americans are now just Americans and I’ve seen too many movies.  

    I do like snow for the childlike disruption it causes to normal life but not everyone can enjoy it. Always worth checking on the old folk.    


  10. tartanfever says:

    Lived in the Chew Valley for several years Rev and then in Bristol for 10 before moving back north, and in all my time there I can only remember two occasions when it snowed like that. Makes a nice change.


  11. Juteman says:

    The transport minister didn’t resign over 50cm of snow. He resigned because the Labour/Unionist/MSM hounded him out.


  12. the bunnyman says:

    as one snowman said to the other:
    “can ye smell carrot?”
    to which, the other replied: “naw, but i can taste coal!”
    ah’ll get ma jacket


  13. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    It would be remiss not to direct you all to my friend John’s snowman:


  14. Ysabelle says:

    < That’s a bloody tragedy so it is. 

    Sadly, no snow here, but very cold. 


  15. Cuphook says:

    Not sure if the other snowman swung that shovel. He looks armless to me.

    Damn. It was the cat. I need to brush up on my Cluedo skills.


  16. MajorBloodnok says:

    I love Cluedo.  It’s great solving motiveless crimes in single storey stately homes – especially when you forget to put the cards into the black envelope.


  17. Cuphook says:

    You should try playing Revolutionary Cluedo where killing off the upper class is motive enough.

    Always a sense of futility when you realise that you’ve pointlessly played for an hour. Had a game of backgammon with a friend where it took us an age to realise that we were both going around the board in the same direction.    


  18. Cameron says:

    I agree that there is a generation, possibly two, that does not know how to drive safely in the snow. The same people may also have difficulty in picturing what coal looks like, and probably not have the first clue as to what it tastes like.


  19. Jeannie says:

    See, if they just read Wings, they’d know all about all-weather tyres and would have been able to get to their work.  Set Morag on them!


  20. Stevie Cosmic says:

    It snowed here in Athens last week. Not entirely unusual for January, but there were photos on FB showing the Parthenon with about an inch of snow on it, quite picturesque.
    Anyways, still on weather, what has intrigued me of late is the world news reports on the damage from the bush fires in Oz, and the ‘incredibly’ inclement 35C+ weather they’ve been having there. Here in Athens, the temp gauges reach 45c every august without fail. It can remain above 40c for weeks without any respite, and always 30C+ at night,  and every single year without fail much of Attica is aflame and smouldering with only 2 helicopters and a hot air balloon to attempt to put it out, such are the effects of the austerity measures. You could almost set your watch by it.

    My point however, is that Scots can also ‘endure’ the opposite end of the temp scales. When it’s 40c+, I’m out swimming in the sea while most of the long suffering Greeks are huddled under their AC units crying for mercy.


  21. Cameron says:

    @ Stevie Cosmic
    How is austerity biting over there, do you see any prospect of the Generals returning to power?


  22. Stevie Cosmic says:

    The EU will never allow such a situation to occur. Not on Merkel’s watch. Things are shit in truly epic proportions, but the Greeks have a family structure that they can fall back on that seems to be providing a foundation for what’s left. I fully expect full scale asset stripping next; the disappearance from the high street of bonafide artisans, seamstresses, blacksmiths, stonemasons, jewellers, shoemakers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers….replaced by Tesco hypermarkets and minimum wage checkout positions for folks that used to own businesses. This part I dread, but I know it’s coming unless something radical takes place to improve the lot of the Greeks.


  23. Cameron says:

    I myself wouldn’t have thought the EU would allow such an overtly anti-democratic situation to arise, but there is more than one way to skin a cat. Does anyone know how big the propaganda campaign against the anti-austerity movement was, in terms of TV minutes, etc., and have the banks that funded it been identified yet? Are people in Greece talking about such things, as I think there are a lot of lessons that can be learned about the modern world, from observing the situation over there?


  24. Stevie Cosmic says:

    I think most Greeks are more than aware of the fact that little more than 1c from every euro of bailout money stays in Greece…that much of the other 99% flows staright back to German and French banks, if not to German and French  defence and construction contractors. The whole thing is utterly sickening.But Greeks know that an exit from the euro would be painful, so they they are keen (whatever the long term benefits) to avoid that.
    Of course, there is also the question of the rise of the right here. Xrisi Avgi polling at +20% is not an insignificant statistic, and neither is their reputation on the streets of Athens. Compounding this matter further is the following:

    1: EU legislation returns illegal immigrants to their port of entry, NOT their country of origin.

    2: +90% of EU illegal immigrants enter Europe through Greece’s borders.

    3. Greece gets 2 balloons and a whistle from Brussels to cope with her immigration problems.

    4. Athens has an estimated +2million illegal immigrants.

    5. Immigration problems and austerity measures have never been happy bedfellows.
    All is not well here unfortunately. It looks to us like the EU is staring at a lit fuse and doing fuck all about it.


  25. Cameron says:

    Perhaps that was what was needed to drive the ESM through and make it stick? Talking of the far-right, how significant have the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party been in government, or did they just make up the numbers to get the austerity measures passed?
    Sorry for the 20 questions, but the whole tragedy seams to have disappeared from English language analysis, or perhaps I could not bring myself to look at at the crash scene any longer.


  26. Stevie Cosmic says:

    Neo Nazi’s merely make up the seats for the morons who voted for them. They have no significant presence other than they are there and should not be. Their presence on the streets however, and their protection by the unbelievably low paid police force are all too real. With an utterly corrupt judiciary, Golden Dawn are often seen by both public and police as remedying situations that the law is all too slow to address…particularly those of an ‘immigrant’ nature. So you can see their niche, and why those less intellectually capable might be persuaded to vote for them…..even if their party leader is on record as saying at a recent rally that ‘elections never done this country any good’.

    One marvels at the logic of anyone who might ‘vote’ for that.


  27. Cameron says:

    Such logic is only to be expected in today’s topsy turvy world, especially when the MSM is drumming it in to your head morning, noon and night. We even got a bit of it hear at its height, “just look at what will happen to you if you don’t support the banks”, and of course my favorite, “we’re all in it together”. That sort of guff only a tame MSM would consider news.


  28. JLT says:

    To be honest, Rev …no disrepect to the good English folk, but this actually pi$$es me off. Two years ago, Scotland got ‘hammered’ with snow …and I mean ‘hammered’. I live in Livingston, and for 5 weeks, we had fight our way through it – it was that deep!!
    I went out with a pole, and measured the depth in my back garden. I kidd you not …I had 4 feet of the stuff. It was way beyond my waist and sitting just above my stomach (I’m 6 feet 4). 
    Everyone was piling the snow up in the front gardens to clear the roads. In the end, it looked like WW1 trenches in inverse. Instead of dark mud, the streets looked like white trenches. and remember, this is the Central Belt, in the 2nd biggest town in the Lothians after Edinburgh …this was NOT the Highlands.
    Now, I come to my point. My Head Office down south demanded that I make ‘the effort’ to get in. When I told them what I was facing – a 25 mile trip from Livi to Potobello, with the M8 and A71 gridlocked or shut down by the Police, therefore, leaving me to take impossible backroads through the countryside. Well, in their opinion, ‘I had to try since it sounds like I’m exaggerating. It can’t be that deep’ – they just couldn’t picture it, therefore…they thought I was making it up. when I utterly refused to go, I had to phone my bosses here, and get them to tell London that all bets were off!!! I had to take photo’s and email them to the office down south. My colleagues all did the same (from Fife, East Lothian, Mid Lothian. Central and Strathclyde) – we were all up in arms. In the end, they relented, and told us to stay home.
    And then came the bit that had the whole of Scotland sneering in disgust – a couple of days later – London got 2 inches of the white stuff themselves, and the Londoners panicked!! I remember the food shops being wiped out in panic buying. The BBC made it sound like it was the blitz all over again. It was utter nonsense.
    If you remember, this was at the time when the full blown row kicked off when folk had to camp in their cars on the M8 one night (from Edinburgh to Harthill – one giant train of cars, all stuck), and it led to the unjustified sacking of the SNP minister for transport. We were going daft up here – not from the snow – but from the demands from businesses about ‘you must go to work’ – and half of the demands came from offices down in the London area.
    It really is one rule for one, and one rule for another. That’s what annoys us north of Birmingham. But anyway Rev …do enjoy the white stuff. If you find it a nice surprise, then get your camera out, and if you can, take a ton of photos in Black and White. Winter photos in black and white are utterly fantastic – really atmospheric !!


  29. Appleby says:

    I can honestly say I’ve seen people pop to the local shop in their dressing gown and slippers in worse than that.


  30. Appleby says:

    Yup,  JLT. I feel the same. The arseholes in the London and southern offices force myself and the rest to go to meetings and go to work in conditions that are awful and tell us we just have to “tough it out” or “try harder”, but they get a sniff of the white stuff (and not the cocaine this time) and suddenly everything is closed down, extra holidays and cocoa all round and they won’t so much as answer an email or phone for even important issues. Couldn’t believe it when I saw the emails coming in telling me this and that office was closed and when I saw the slight weather it took to do it. How very considerate and even handed of them. Utter cretins I hope they lose a finger to the frost for their constant double standards.
    Not that I am annoyed or anything right now…

    This has more to do with London business culture and ignorance and general lack of interest or empathy with the world outside of the SE than anything else, I feel. Average coworkers outside of that bubble across the UK understand or go through the same nonsense.


  31. Tonia Wight says:

    I keep meaning to ask this… but what exactly is keeping you down south Rev? Come join us back up here! We will need you in 2014!


  32. Morag says:

    RevStu, in acknowledgement of your problem with the Co-op mentioned above, this photo was taken a few days before Christmas 2009 when we woke up to about nine inches of snow.  (In case it’s not obvious from the picture, this is the Co-op lorry making its delivery in the middle of it all.  Despite the very steep hill at the start of the Main Street.


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