Sunday, 27 December 2009

For the want of a handful of grit….

Last weekend it snowed, not a surprise at the tail end of December but the whole country was still thrown into chaos. Empires rise and fall, fashions change and yet Britain’s inability to cope with a handful of snowflakes remains the one fixed point in an ever changing world.

It isn’t that we struggle to cope with ‘extreme’ weather such as the floods that swept through Cumbria last month or the six inches of snow we had last weekend, we seem incapable of coping with any kind of weather at all, in a country where the sad souls who read out the forecast on television are minor celebrities that is utterly inexplicable.

The problem, I suspect, has a lot to do with out treasured pose of amateurism, not for us the swift response to far heavier snowfalls made on mainland Europe and in parts of America; that simply isn’t cricket old chap. We’d much prefer to muddle through whilst talking about the Dunkirk spirit, which is fine apart from all the times when it isn’t and muddling through just turns into a muddle.

The best example of muddling through gone bad presented by the great, six whole inches as one wide eyed forecaster exclaimed live on air last week, snows of December 2009 was the abject failure of Euro Star to run its trains through the channel tunnel. They hadn’t, as a parade of Euro suits informed the nation’s media, considered the prospect that it might be a good idea to buy some trains capable of coping with the fact that it gets cold in the winter. Blue sky thinking of that sort, or, I suspect thinking of any sort doesn’t really happen in Euro boardrooms.

You could be rather facetious about the wrong sort of cold weather or snow on the lines, at least you could it you hadn’t watched the news footage of the despairing little huddles of stranded travellers gathered on the freezing platform of London’s St Pancras station looking like nothing so much as troops waiting to be evacuated at the start of a war the Euro suits of their time had told them wouldn’t happen this year or next.

Every missed connection on the day the trains didn’t run through the channel tunnel and the motorway network turned into a frosty car park was a miniature nightmare. Filled with the last words of elderly relatives or the first steps of grandchildren missed because a medium sized nuclear power can’t get its governmental head around the notion that it often snows in December and so it might be a good idea to make some preparations beforehand, for the want of a handful of grit and a little common sense thousands of lives were needlessly disrupted for which however sincerely they might have been made the apologies given by the Euro suits can never compensate.

Not that they were sincerely made, it doesn’t work like that, to make a sincere apology the person doing the apologising has to have something to lose, like a large salary and an equally generous pension, but the Euro suits haven’t got anything to lose. The worst that will happen, if anything happens at all, is that a few of them will get to draw that generous pension a little sooner.

In a dictatorship, so the saying goes, the trains always run on time because if they don’t somebody gets shot, in a democracy that’s no way to run a railroad, but if we genuinely want our trains to run on time we need to create a situation where it they don’t somebody gets fired. I’d set my cross hairs on somebody wearing a Euro suit.

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