Thursday, December 31, 2009

The end of the decade

There is no real reason to mark the end of the "noughties". Key events in our lives are better marked by generations, periods of 25 - 35 years. And it may be that the period from the end of the oil price crisis of 1973 through to now marks one of those defining eras. It was the era that saw a huge explosion in the wealth of sportsmen, entertainers, businessmen (by "men" of course I include women). The era of gigantic building projects typified by the Burj Tower in Dubai (and for Londoners Canary Wharf and the "Gherkin"). The era in which all the world's culture was made available to a large percentage of the worlds population through the Internet and relatively cheap personal computing. The era of cheap air travel, global television, global branding. The era in which the nation-state rivalries typified by the NATO/Warsaw Pact stand-off gave way to the loose alliance of democracies and populist states versus terrorist states and organisations. The era in which for the first time science could tell a convincing story about the origin and nature of the Universe on both the largest and the smallest scale. And above all the era in which the human race grasped for the first time that the resources of the Earth are finite and that our industrial activities can damage the biosphere - but sadly not the era in which the human race agreed to do very much about the destruction of its heritage.

It may be that our children will look back on this time as some sort of Golden Age of stability and good living. If some of the dire forecasts about climate change turn out to be true and we see the Mediterranean basin becoming an outpost of the Sahara, huge numbers of people homeless through rising sea levels and major changes in world agriculture, then they may conclude that we were the luckiest generation of all time.
[Yeah, that's right, go out on a high note. Gloomy sod: Ed]

Monday, December 28, 2009

Memories of a snowstorm

Quite an amusing programme on tele the other night (it was on More4 so you probably missed it) - an hour about the snowstorm of February 2009. Billed as the story of what happened when the whole country came to a halt, it caused the wife and myself some bemusement. We couldn't even remember the blizzard for a while, and I actually had to reread my entry on this blog as an aide-memoire [I love it when he talks French: Ed] then we dimly recalled having one day when heavy snow brought London to a standstill. Yes, one day. February 2nd. After that we got back to normal.

Ten minutes into the programme and we had moved on from people trapped in their cars and doctors walking 50 miles to work, and had reached sledging tragedies. Twenty minutes later and the worst they could come up with now was a couple of girls getting wet in an icy stream for a few minutes. At that point we switched over. You see, we don't really do bad weather in the UK. Flooding is becoming a real problem, granted, but not snow. Our hair does not stand on end when they screen footage of Kings Cross tube station being closed - after all, Bob Crow and his merry men manage that feat more often.

We will probably continue to have a couple of days every year when snow falls sufficiently heavily and quickly to paralyse the traffic and the trains. And within a day or so it will have melted or been pushed away and it will not be a problem any more. No idea how anyone can justify devoting an hour of TV to it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Xmas closedown

Another year staggers towards its end and all over London offices are closing for the Christmas holidays. After several freezing days, with ice and frozen snow still on the ground in beautiful Ruislip, it looks as though some slightly warmer weather is on the way to ensure that once again the bookies have a profitable time of it. Although the definition of a "white Christmas" in the UK is, I gather, if a single snowflake falls on the Air Ministry roof. Now how you would tell if one flake falls is beyond me, unless they have a couple of men permanently posted up there with binoculars and flasks of hot tea, like the ARP lookouts during the War. You can imagine them bunkered down near the air conditioning outlets to keep warm, huddled in their greatcoats and balaclavas, trying to write down observations with stiff unyielding fingers in their RAF-issue notebooks with biros that are frozen and rip the paper, constantly scanning the skies for that one elusive white fragment that means so much to those who have once more succumbed to the desire to make futile bets.

"There's one now Sir, coming down from the east"
"No, Thompson, its a piece of paper - check the markings man"
"Sorry sir. But what's that there, by that cloud?"
"My God, could it be...Thompson, can you see it on the binos? Is it?...I think it is. London's certainly going to take a pasting tonight. Get on to Wingco and pass the alert. Those poor civilians down there - it's going to be traffic madness when that flake hits the ground. I'll call Eurostar and stop all trains until February just to be on the safe side"
"It is just the one snowflake sir"
"Thompson, never relax your guard. The cunning devils just want to lull us into a false sense of security. There'll be more on the way. God knows if we can deal with them all. We'll just do our duty Thompson, no-one can do more. "
A harmonica plays softly in the background as the two men gaze up sternly, resolutely, fearing the worst, knowing that the nation is relying on them to see it through.
Fade to black

Friday, December 18, 2009

The tube did run

I wrote yesterday about the little bit of snow and whether the tube would run today. Despite a little more of the white stuff overnight, it did. Must have been the right sort of snow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A chill eastern wind

A sudden blast of cold air blew in across London from the east and hit the office building in which I work this lunchtime and at once the air was full of whirling sleet and snow. Then it seemed to calm down but tonight in beautiful Ruislip it has been snowing for several hours and we have about half an inch of icy snow that compacts to a hard lump if you squeeze it. I watched somone trying to drive up the moderately little hill on which we live and he just went sideways into the kerb as his wheels spun without friction.

So it's winter once again. It was forecast, the gritters are out and the big question is - Will the tube run tomorrow? Or must I take an enforced day off (insincere sob). It is that time of year when things in my line of work go very quiet so it won't be much of a disaster if I struggle down to the Manor and find the station shut.