Great Britain
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Why do we overreact at the first sign of snow?

I WOKE up on Sunday and before I got out of bed I glanced at my phone.

The news headlines left me nervous to draw the curtains. I fully expected to be faced with scenes similar to those from The Day After Tomorrow - mountainous snow drifts, impassable ice sheets and horizontal, driving sleet.

Every year we seem more and more shocked by what we have traditionally called winter. Yes, winter - typified by lower temperatures, snow, ice, blizzards and all that goes with it.

I tentatively peeped outside, but instead of being faced with conditions that would test Shackleton, I faced a landscape with a dusting of white powder.

I know that some parts of Britain had a far harsher dose of winter last weekend than we had in Yorkshire, with power lines down and disruption to transport services. The fact that the snow came in the wake of Storm Arwen made for dangerous conditions in some areas. Falling trees tragically killed three people.

Of course such extreme events do warrant strong headlines, but aside from this we are guilty of overreacting to bog standard winter weather.

We behave as if it’s the first time we’ve ever had snow. However will we cope? Will we get the car out? How will we get to work? Headlines like ‘big freeze’ and ‘deep freeze’ lead us to believed we are in for another Little Ice Age. It’s snow shovel and winter coat time, not Doomsday.

When winter arrives, we are - and there’s no more appropriate term - a bunch of snowflakes.

What puzzles me is that, as the years go by, we are no more prepared for winter weather than we were in previous decades. We still have the usual debates: will they/won’t they grit the roads (with snow forecast it should be a given, but it’s not), will the snow bring traffic to a halt (yes, always), will school boilers be up to the job (no, never), do we need to get our mittens and woolly hats out (only if we face up to the fact that it IS winter)?

How we British ever colonised Canada I don’t know.

I remember as a child far worse weather - we walked to school along the tops of four-foot high snow drifts ,which lasted for weeks.

We would build giant snowmen that sat on our lawns from December to March. Nowadays you’re lucky if they last overnight. We would sledge for days on end - on the Cleveland Hills behind our village a natural gulley formed a toboggan run that we kids slid down at speed on plastic sacks.

As for disruption to transport - why are we surprised? For years I commuted across two counties and came to expect the late arrival or cancellation of trains whenever it snowed. I spent many a long evening waiting in the cold at Bradford Interchange or Leeds Station, as trains struggled to get across the Pennines from Manchester.

One of main news items from last weekend concerned a group of people marooned in Britain’s highest pub the Tan Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales. That kind of thing is nothing new. I remember the same thing happening on many an occasion at The Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge on the North York Moors. My teenage boyfriend was among a group stranded there overnight one winter. I can’t remember how he got home, but he wasn’t able was able to retrieve his car - buried in snow - for days.

So why do we act in such as alarmist manner when winter arrives? Maybe, with all the talk of global warming, we don’t expect temperatures to plummet.

We have been led to believe that in a few years Britain’s climate will be on a par with that of Namibia. We are bombarded with tips as to how to maintain the lemon groves that are likely to replace rose beds in our gardens and why we should put ceiling fans and mosquito nets on our Christmas lists. So we are not mentally prepared for a real winter.

We need to remember that we live in the Northern Hemisphere - it’s winter and it’s cold. It might snow. Get over it.