Snow turns a ‘can do’nation into wimps

‘Can’t do’ Bri­tain grinds to a halt with a spell of bad weather

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

This mis­sive comes to you from Mon­sieur An­gry. Here he sits, stuck in the charm­less cabin of a Bri­tish Air­ways Boe­ing 767, on the ground at Charles de Gaulle air­port in Paris – for an es­ti­mated three­and-a-half hour de­lay.

The air­craft is primed, ready to roll. Just one prob­lem. Eng­land is closed. In fact, it has hardly been open for about a

Mama Taxi

week now. Some 7 000 schools were shut last week, nu­mer­ous vil­lages cut off and trans­port links sev­ered.

Sur­vival sto­ries more akin to ex­pe­di­tions to the South Pole have been emerg­ing, like tales from pre­vi­ously be­lieved lost hu­mans in an ice-age freeze. One man took 28 hours to travel from London to Brighton, a jour­ney that is about as far as trav­el­ling from Cape Town to Stel­len­bosch.

Oth­ers found them­selves trapped on trains that slith­ered to a halt and did not move for a day or more. The cause of all this chaos was snow.

Now rail­ways in Bri­tain have long had a rep­u­ta­tion for pro­duc­ing the daftest ex­cuses imag­in­able for de­lays. One once blamed “the wrong kind of leaves on the line” in au­tumn, an­other, “the wrong kind of snow”.

This time it’s fog and snow. Maybe it’s the right kind, maybe the wrong, but it’s just an­other of the cli­matic chal­lenges that reg­u­larly prove far too much for those who try to run Bri­tain.

A nation that made its rep­u­ta­tion as a “can do” kind of coun­try suf­fi­cient even to mud­dle through a world war as even­tual vic­tors, sim­ply can’t do any­thing these days.

Gi­ant ma­chines fly­ing over Bri­tain pump­ing out bil­lions of tons of fake snow or evil fog would have had Bri­tain on its knees in hours. If only old Adolf had known...

A sense of en­ter­prise and spirit seems to have gone awol from Bri­tain. One school head­mas­ter was as­ton­ished to find that, hav­ing man­aged to drive 40km from his home to his school over icy, snowy roads in the county of Kent, the school drawn from pupils in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity, had re­mained shut.

A few years back, to­gether with some friends, I went tobog­gan­ing one snowy day. A friend hur­tled down the hill, some­how caught his leg in the steel bar be­neath the sledge and broke it badly. We had a choice: wait for an am­bu­lance and let him suf­fer in agony for who knows how long, or, adapt­ing to the con­di­tions, use them in our favour. We care­fully strapped him to the to­bog­gan and pulled him over the snow cov­ered fields and streets to a nearby hos­pi­tal. He ar­rived long be­fore any of­fi­cial res­cue could have helped.

Now the feared ’Elf and Safety com­mis­sars would doubt­less throw up their hands in horror at such an act. The abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate dif­fi­cul­ties, to think out­side the box and or­ches­trate a strat­egy to deal with pre­vail­ing con­di­tions or cir­cum­stances, seems be­yond con­tem­po­rary Bri­tons.

Their lives have be­come so reg­i­mented, so struc­tured by such ab­sur­di­ties as the Health and Safety Act that they have be­come like ants, only able to op­er­ate at the com­mand of their leader.

Few seem able to think for them­selves, find an­other way to ex­ist and per­haps use some in­ven­tive pow­ers to cir­cum­nav­i­gate a dif­fi­culty thrown be­fore them.

Bri­tain is hardly a Third World coun­try but it some­times acts like it.

While other na­tions of north­ern Europe such as Ger­many and the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries, which are of­ten prone to far heav­ier falls of snow, man­age to main­tain their busi­nesses and go about their ev­ery­day lives, gorm­less Bri­tain grinds to a halt.

Yet of all the coun­tries of the world, this one was once re­garded as one of the most in­ven­tive on the planet. It pro­duced bril­liant hu­man be­ings with out­stand­ing minds and char­ac­ters by the thou­sands yet to­day the Brits strug­gle to think on their feet, even if they’re keep­ing them on a snow-cov­ered path.

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