Posted tagged ‘snow’

Winter days

December 7, 2012

Winter has arrived in Aberdeen, and over the last few days we have had freezing cold temperatures and the first serious fall of snow. The scene below is the RGU campus in Garthdee, with Garthdee House in the background (where my office will be from spring 2013).

Garthdee, RGU, Aberdeen

Garthdee, RGU, Aberdeen

If you want to see a close up (and less wintry) photograph of Garthdee House, you can see one here.


The big freeze is a state of mind

December 22, 2010

As readers in the Dublin area will be able to confirm, getting around this city over the past day or two has not been easy. Although snow and ice have descended upon us again, there is no sign of any kind of local authority gritting. The snow has simply piled up and has made many, perhaps most, roads treacherous. Having lived in places where such weather is not so rare, I am able to negotiate these conditions reasonably well, and have been getting around in my car; though it is a slow business, as other drivers struggle to keep their cars going as they want them to.

But what has struck me is the utter lack of concern for others that I seem to be witnessing. Since yesterday morning I have encountered some 15 motorists who were stuck – skidding, unable to move forward, unable to get up a hill, unable to get out of or get back into their drives, and so forth. And nobody was helping them. Here’s an example.

Yesterday a woman driving a people carrier was trying to drive along the road as it went up a small hill. She had got about half way up with the car skidded sideways, and now she was standing with her car across both sides of the road, unable to move it. Because she was right in the middle of the road cars were able to pass by on both sides of her, which they did, and not one stopped to help. As I got out of my car to see if I could do something for her, a taxi driver passing by slowed down, pulled down his window, and shouted at her to stay at home if she didn’t know how to drive, and that she should get a ‘proper car’. When I reached her she was in tears, but with a little help I was able to get her back on her way; though as no good deed goes unpunished, I found that my own car was now stuck on the hill – but I was able to get it moving by easing back down again first.

I am not suggesting I am particularly good or helpful. All too often I don’t stop in normal conditions to help someone. But at times such as these we need to show solidarity with others and stop to help. Have we lost that little bit of compassion?

By the way, my dog also helps. When on our walks we have found motorists in distress, I stop to push and he stands at the side of the road and barks vigorously. It encourages us…

The snow report

December 1, 2010

I spent two hours this morning moving between different parts of Dublin in journeys that should, in aggregate, have taken me 20 minutes, even in heavy traffic. It took so long because it was snowing, and because this creates chaos when it happens in Dublin. One car caused a major problem when the driver got out, leaving his car standing in the middle of the road, while he made a call on a public call box on the pavement. Another car had skidded into the middle of the road and the driver was so shell shocked that she was unable to move it. Another major problem was caused by a truck delivering something or other and just stopping on the road to do this, without pulling in at all to the side.

Today’s weather in Dublin is not good, but it is not that bad either. I suppose we are so bad at handling snow and ice because, by and large, it is such a rare thing.  We just can’t deal with anything in our weather other than ‘scattered showers’, which is our default meteorological condition. But at least it has given us a topic of conversation other than the Irish taxpayer’s bailing out of the German banks. And that’s something.

Thoughts in the snow

January 8, 2010

On Wednesday I had to take a tricky decision, though not one that I could have taken differently. At about 5 pm I was informed by some of my staff in DCU that if we were to keep the university library open up to the normal time – 10 pm this week – we would potentially be putting both staff and users at risk. Earlier in the day there had been some heavy snowfall, some of which had briefly turned to slush, and at this point a severe frost had set in and conditions had become hazardous. On top of that, conditions on the roads were rapidly deteriorating, and sending people out with their cars later that evening would have been reckless. So I gave instructions that the library was to close forthwith for the evening; and I asked that the announcement made to users should invite them to contact me directly if they had any concerns. This latter invitation was made in particular because I am well aware that there would have been students there preparing for their imminent semester 1 examinations.

In the event I did receive some messages, but I hope we have been able to help those who needed support or advice, and indeed that those who were inconvenienced understood why this was a regrettable but necessary step. And so Thursday on the campus was very eerily quiet, if rather pretty. I suspect it was not much different in the other universities.

But while I know that, all things considered – and in particular the safety of staff and students – I took the right decision, there is a little bit of me that thinks that as a country we should be able to cope rather better with this sort of thing. I am reminded of early January 1982 when severe weather also hit the country. We may complain about inadequate gritting now, but back then there was none at all. The snow had fallen in similar quantities to what we have just experienced now, but absolutely everything closed. There was no public transport, and for private motorists the roads were death traps – chiefly because most drivers had no idea how to handle icy conditions and were just skidding helplessly this way and that. My then employer, Trinity College, didn’t formally close, but when I managed to make my way to my office, mostly on foot from Monkstown where I lived back then (oh the shame of it, a southside address), I couldn’t get in because everything was locked and nobody was to be seen. And so I had to walk all the way back, and just outside the RDS actually got hit by a car careering out of control (but thankfully was not hurt).

So we are a bit better now, but still not great. In conditions which wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary for people living in, say, Chicago or Wroclaw, we are tempted just to give in. We say we don’t experience this kind of weather enough to warrant buying the equipment and supplies to deal with it when it does occur, but on the other hand we have reached a state of development where weather conditions should no longer put us out of action. And so when one or two students, while saying they realised why I decided to close the library they still thought we should have been able to keep it open, I kind of understand where they are coming from.

Tomorrow I imagine I’ll enjoy the snowy campus a little more in very quiet conditions. But in reality I know we should be firing on all cylinders. And goodness knows what it will all be like after the predicted heavy snowfall on Sunday. Anyway, getting to the office (25 yards from my home) is no problem for me, so I’ll use this time to do some creative things.