Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Communal Ice-Breaking

Tired & achey, but at least I'm warm.

Stuck at home for the past two days because of the "extreme snow event" in London. Because the estate where we live has narrow roads and is at the top of a hill, the gritters didn't make it in here so the buses didn't run. All well and good yesterday when everyone was stuck at home, but today it was a tad irritating.

Yesterday several families were out in the street once it was obvious no-one was going anywhere. Children were enjoying making snow figures (not just snowmen - though what inspired someone to fashion a toilet with the lid up out of snow is best left unasked), and throwing snowballs. Fathers took the opportunity to show their children how to have a proper snowball fight. Later in the day, the steep slope of the street and the green that leads to the main loop road were used for sled runs. Some had proper sleds, others used tea trays or plastic chopping boards. One very enterprising person found an abandoned "pavement closed" sign left over from last week and bent it to shape.

We decided to take advantage of the unexpected spare time and go for a walk round the lake. This time last year we were spotting snapdrops and early bud burst. No chance od that yesterday - the snow was at least 4 inches deep everywhere. The snow that was falling on the lake was turning into a slushy carpet over the surface, sliced through by the birds as they swam past. We walked round the lake and into the wood, watching the snow continue to fall through gaps in the trees. We took advantage of the natural arbours made by tightly twined ivy for shelter before reluctanly returning home to warm through and dry out.

This morning, the hours of fun had yesterday had taken their toll on the street. The hundreds of sled runs down the hill had compacted the snow into thick ice, and it was impossible to drive out onto the main roads. In fact, a couple of cars from further up the street ended up sliding down to the end whilst trying to leave. The wheelspins as they attempted to escape made the ice even harder to break.

Eventually we decided something had to be done, and along with a neighbour and one of the trapped drivers, we started trying to break the ice. It turned out the best tool for this was a garden hoe, which sliced through the ice as effectively as through soil. It was hard work, painful on the back and shoulders, but after an hour or so we had driven a decent sized clear passage for cars on the road, and a similar gap on the pavement.

When we visited the local garden centres on Saturday to get our seed
potatoes, I noticed bags of rock salt on sale. I wondered about
getting some, but I do think that the joint effort made this lunchtime
was more positive that throwing down a chemical that could have run
down to the brook.

As we finished our task, we could hear the sound a spades scraping away ice from all directions. I don't know if we inspired them, or even guilt tripped them, or if they had planned to get out and clear the ice anyway, but it just proves that there's no point in waiting for someone (especially the council) to take the initiative. If something needs doing, whether it just benefits you or a whole group of people, just get on and make a start!