Yes, I admit it: mild winters had become the norm in the UK for several years. Thus we were caught out last winter, when we had a prolonged spell of snow and ice. There was lots of controversy then about a lack of preparedness by the public sector. “Lessons have been learned”, we were told. But were they?

“The weather in Britain? Changeable.”

The best old joke about the weather here is attributed to Bob Hope, born British but naturalised American: “If you don’t like the weather in Britain, just wait five minutes.” Oldies but goldies.

Not only is our weather changeable (note that I say weather, as distinct from climate; I’m not sure that we have a climate) but there are considerable local variations. Because of these two facts, I am always amazed that we devote some much broadcast time to weather forecasts, particularly on the national stations where the forecast is often short, generalised and therefore of no value. If you want to know the weather where you are, tune in to a local station, or check online. Or you could just do what I do; look out of the window. It works for me.

Cold weather in December? Who knew that could happen?

I admit it; we have had cold weather and snow much earlier this year than is normal. But here we are in December; where I live there has been very little snow but because of the freezing temperatures the roads and pavements are quite dangerous. Despite that, I have seen no evidence of salting or gritting. As I wrote in my Twitter feed, where is our usually-mighty “Elf and Safety industry (so powerful in respect of trivia, it seems to me) when we need them?

“Health and Safety? Don’t get me started”. Oh, I already have.

I live in Bristol, allegedly the second-richest city in the UK (based on GDP per capita, which might not be the best measure but so far it seems to be the only one we have); a country that’s supposed to be the sixth biggest economy in the world (again, based on GDP; not sure I care that much about that kind of international league table, but most people think it’s important). However, we can’t seem to organise the supplies and infrastructure to keep roads and pavement safe and traffic flowing if it should by chance freeze or snow in December. (who knew that could happen?)

We already know that only half of the salt that was promised for this winter has even been delivered into storage. Couldn’t we even get that right?

I don’t usually quote Jeremy Clarkson but it fits here: “How hard can it be?”

Next time?

OK, this doesn’t happen very often (in the southern half of the UK anyway) but it does happen, it generally happens in the winter, and when it does, we end up in a shambles. Then in a couple of weeks it’ll all be over and “lessons will have been learned”. Until the next time.

North-south divide

Maybe the fact that the freeze affected the south-east will be a blessing; politicians will perhaps start to get serious about planning to avoid winter transport chaos. When wintry weather only affected the north and Scotland, they could ignore it.

Now it’s time to go out for a walk and play “spot the gritting lorry”. A game for all the family.