Monday, 6 December 2010

Snow, snow and more snow

Not exactly snowy Manchester but certainly frosty and more
importantly not foggy now. Hopefully we can set off today
to sunny Oz
Well we found out why it was so cold (14C, 57F) in the apartment last week, beside being minus 17C (1.5F) outside, the heating company apparently ran out of wood over the weekend!!!!!! The wood chips they had were too wet to burn and their chipper broke down meaning they could not create any more and so they ran out of something to burn. If that is only partly true then it is gross incompetence as there are old folks and young families in the apartment buildings. They do seem to have an apparent disregard for the comfort of the folks in the buildings which is difficult to comprehend, hence their lack of planning. Good job for us we were not in that night and were out at the school in the morning, at least it wasn't until the afternoon I began to feel the cold.

This week has definitely been a very interesting week. Tuesday morning I was finishing off getting ready for our trip to England and I was reading comments on facebook by my friends in the North of England. I quickly realised that the situation was not good and the weather forecast was no better, it was looking increasingly risky to try and do an overnight stop in the Sheffield area. Fortunately I remembered that some friends of ours know some folks in Bedford, which was really handy for Luton airport, only 40 minutes away, and they gave me their number. Bless them! The young couple in Bedford opened their home to us and welcomed us in, which as it turned out was one of the best decisions we made of the week. It felt a bit weird sorting out the accommodation as we were walking to the plane to get on but it was an extraordinary situation setting off from a slightly snowy Latvia and heading for a rather snowy England, knowing full well that England does not cope well in the snow. Getting onto our flight was a bit weird too as they made us walk to the plane and then stand outside in a half-covered walkway for about 10 minutes (felt longer) in temperatures hovering around -10C (14F) and not everyone was dressed for the Latvian outdoors. We were pleased that we were still carrying our coats, hats and gloves.

We woke in Bedford to just a smattering of snow but reports of absolute chaos in Sheffield where we were supposed to have been the night before, with more snow forecast. We started to head north with some trepidation wondering what we were heading for. Occasionally we would hit a snow shower and think "well this is it, here we go", but it didn't last. Then we reached Sheffield!!!! We have lived there for 5 years and just south of there for 15 years and we have never seen scenes like it, there was so much snow, more than we had ever seen in that area and we had seen a few snowy winters. There were also lorries stacked up on the side of the motorway, obviously stranded overnight. More phone calls to our friends in Sheffield led us to abandoning any thought of going there and we just carried on very slowly along the motorway past it, grateful that we had not tried to make it there the night before. Even if we had made it to Sheffield, the chances are we wouldn't have made it out. We carried on heading up north and although it was slow going and snowy, it was not as bad as the Sheffield area. It would also appear that we flew in at the right time on the right airline, a day earlier and we would have been caught in the chaos of Sheffield, a day later and planes to Gatwick, the other airport we use regularly, was shut for two days. Phew!

Ian's Mum's backgarden
The snowy conditions meant several changes to plans as we were late arriving at Ian's mum's and when it was time to leave we chose to leave earlier in the day than originally planned so we could travel in daylight. Some roads were icy as temperatures were around -7C (20F) in the daytime which is unbelievably cold for England, even the motorways were icy in places which is a bit scary but we took it steady and arrived at my mother's in daylight. I have known temperatures that cold before in England but not that cold and snowy, it seems to be one or the other. Service stations along the way on the motorways were full of people taking breaks on long journeys and many had bonnets up and appeared to be looking at their washers, cars and screenwash are just not set up for such cold conditions. We were okay using our washers but only because we had poured neat screenwash in, which may not be good for the paintwork for the car in the long run but when it is that cold the choice is between being able to see and having your windscreen mist up from the spray off the roads. We also left my mother's a day earlier and booked into a hotel at the airport rather than risk the ice preventing us getting down from their rather isolated location or an incident on the roads in the morning from the ice or fog. We had had to leave our car at the bottom of the hill anyway and my dad came down in his 4x4 to pick us and our cases up but it was still rather slippy.

Not had much time for the internet this week but I did find out that 182,600 people in Latvia earn just the minimum wage of 180LVLs (£215, $338) per month out of a total working population of 960,400 ie 19% of those working are paid the minimum wage. Not good! Despite the crisis the Government are increasing the minimum wage to 200LVLs per month in 2011, I guess that is so they can extract more tax but I do believe it is a step in the right direction as it requires around 164 LVLs, according to Government statistics just to purchase the basics and so 180LVLs after tax of 25% is less than what is needed to live off and doesn't leave anything for electricity and heating.

Sorry not many snowy pictures either as we didn't have much time for that and too slippy to take out the camera on our walk.

4 comments:

Mavis said...

I was thinking about you a lot last week, wondering if you were managing to see all the people you hoped to see. So glad you made it to the northeast and Manchester without too many changes to your plans.

I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay in Oz and of course the wedding. We'll see what we can do to improve the weather before you head back this way in a couple of weeks!

At the moment though, according to the news it is not easing up at all up north. Where we live in Somerset we have had a couple of days of snow and then mainly frosty mornings but the temperatures are not rising above freezing even during the day which is most unusual for this part of the UK.

Joanna said...

Funny how different we view the weather Mavis, staying just below freezing suits me fine as it is the 0C-3C that feels so chilly as it is damp. The weather has plenty of time to improve though as we won't be back until mid-January.

ju-north said...

You had quite an adventure! It was lovely to see you both and hope we can meet up again one day!

Joanna said...

It was great to see you to Ju, a great encouragement.

It sure was an adventure getting around the UK this time around, it is good to be flexible and very necessary this time.