Thursday, January 07, 2010

Learning from Cold Weather


We have been having very cold weather, that we are not used to in Ireland, for three weeks now. Yesterday we had a small snow shower that caused chaos in Dublin city centre and elsewhere on the east coast. I had a dental appointment at 3.30 in Henry Street and saw at first hand people slipping and falling in the slush. It was not yet icy, but we were all finding it difficult to keep our footing - I slipped a few times, thankfully without falling. One women walking beside me in the IFSC slipped and fell onto the Luas tracks - luckily there was no tram coming. The picture to the right (link from the Independent newpaper) was taken near Lucan, Co Dublin.

Why do we never learn?

My next door neighbour (Jack) is just back from Chicago where he says it's like this all the time in winter. Our main roads are gritted, but others roads (including our road) are not. There is a shortage of salt - we rely on a small mine in Co Antrim and imports from Spain. It has not been like this since 1982. There are calls on the radio this morning to "Send in the Army". Even I have decided to work from home today (I know - writing this post is not work!).

As an educator, I like to look at events such as this to see how can we learn from them, and if we have learned from the past. Some thoughts, in no particular order, below.
  • Nobody is to blame for the snow. However, people are attacking the government and local authorities, and even blaming the Minister (See Dempsey told to 'come out of hiding' as chaos reigns)
  • If something goes wrong, is it somebody's fault? Do we feel better if we can blame someone else for our woes?
  • Why are we always more concerned about "old people" and "rural areas" - they can certainly handle a bit of snow and ice better than city folks
  • Should we have sand and grit on every street corner for a once in every 20-30 year cold snap? Absolutely not! It would be vandalized in minutes.
  • We don't know how to drive in bad weather. Wednesday morning at about 12.30am I was driving home from Donnybrook along the Stillorgan dual-carriageway in the snow and at 55kph - this is a 60kph zone (I was picking Vicki and pals up from Wesley). I was overtaken at speed by several cars! Was I the only person to see the snow or know that there was ice on the road? How do we learn to drive in conditions like this when they rarely happen? Unfortunately we need more weather like this to learn how to drive and behave better on the roads
  • I'm no saint - but I have cleared the ice and snow on the path outside my own house. Nobody else on my road has done this. I've seen very few paths being cleared in housing estates or outside shops - are we all waiting for someone else to clear them? Is this type of work with a shovel and sweeping brush beneath us? We have to learn that we our responsible for our own "bit", and not wait on others, or go on The Joe Duffy Show for a good moan
  • On the DART home last evening (which took 20 minutes longer than usual, not due to weather - but to a fire on the train in front). The train was packed and the curse of mobile phones struck "I'm on the DART and it is going nowhere" was to be heard every five minutes - I was praying nobody would ring me and I'd have to say the same
  • One innovative woman in the seat opposite me on the DART gave instructions on her phone to her family about how to put the dinner on
  • We Irish love talking about the weather - we have to learn to talk about something else!
  • The good news is - the snow and ice will eventually melt!
I watched a Grumpy Old Men programme a few days ago - may be I should be on it! We all need to learn how to deal with bad weather and "suck it in". I promise to be cheerful from now on and look on the bright side (the sun is shining as I write this - Tada!).

I remember The Big Freeze in 1982 very well. I spent it while in Rooms in Trinity. We had gas, but no water for 10 days - it was great fun (apart from the smelly shared toilet downstairs). The newspapers and radio were just as full of moans then as now. My favourite memory of this Big Freeze was finding £10 under the snow as it was finally melting - it must have been there for 10 days. It was spent on Guinness that night in the Lincoln Inn. The Army was called in 1982 (see 'Storm Troopers' fought 1982 freeze), but is was all over very quickly when the rain returned. 28 years later, we still haven't learned.

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