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.