Overnight on Tuesday and continuing in to Wednesday, our town had 40 cm of snow – the heaviest in 30 years, and 3 – 4 times more than I have ever seen before. This continues what was already the coldest start to winter in many years. On Wednesday, it was notable that virtually nobody ventured out of doors. The road surface was covered in deep snow, so teh cars did not even try it. There were a few brave pedestrians- who forced a channel down the middle of the road, which became a pedestrian preserve. With grey skies and continuing flurries of snow all day, out of doors just did not appeal, except for the most hardy or desperate.
Yesterday morning, with blue skies and a “bright” (but definitely not warm) sun, we ventured (on foot) down to the town for some basic shopping. Cars were conspicuous by their absence, but there were a few pedestrians about – mostly men, for a change: obviously at home rather than at work. The local supermarket (Waitrose, usually very good) had not had deliveries for two days, so was starting to run out of perishables. That had become worse when I went down a second time yesterday afternoon: many more people had decided it might be prudent to get down while they could, and the perishables were almost all off the shelves. However, there were signs of delivery vans finally getting into Haslemere. I saw a beer truck, delivering to the local pub.
This morning, when we went down to the post office and again topped up supplies, it was notable that there had obviously been some deliveries getting through, and a few more cars on the roads. But even so, looking around the neighbourhood, it is clear that fewer than one car in ten has budged over the past three days. Nor are they likely to – there is still a great deal of snow about, and temperatures remain low; if there is just a partial thaw, the problem will become ice; and there is more heavy snow forecast for Sunday. The best estimates are that UK conditions will remain “arctic” for the next week.
No doubt my yank and Canadian readers will be puzzling over this: to you guys, a foot and half may seem like nothing. But here, where snow occurs every winter but is usually light, infrequent and melts within days, we are less prepared than you would be. For a boy from the African veld like me, it’s really quite sumpin’. Shovelling snow from the driveway, as I was doing this afternoon, was simply never required in Johannesburg.