Friday, 11 March 2011

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful

“We have an eighteen month old and it took us half an hour just to get her from the house to the car this morning.”

The words of a colleague the other day remarking on The Return Of The Snow.

It’s universally accepted kids love snow.

But not Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed. Oh no. She can’t stand it. Or rather, she prefers not to step in it. It appears to be her Kryptonite. Plonk her down in the white stuff with protective padded suit, hat, gloves and wellies and she goes all limp and rubbery like a globalisation protestor trying not to be thumped by the Met.

I hope it’s a phase and we move swiftly onto full blown praying for white out conditions in the style of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.

During the blast of wintry weather around Christmas we did get TWMBO out on a sledge and she loved it. Down at the links in Nairn is surely one of the best places for sledging in the world (he said without hyperbole) although we’ve yet to try it. I love what the links around the Wallace Bandstand (just along from the Gromit bench) look like on these days. Full of excited kids (and dads, usually) doing what excited kids have done for generations.

A downside of The Return Of The Snow is the crippling effect it seems to have on public transport. One of the morning trains into Inverness was cancelled recently - and had been cancelled some three hours earlier when it hadn’t left Montrose or somewhere - yet Nairn travellers had no idea until they arrived at the station. Mind you, how would they have let us know in advance? (I think you can sign up for text alerts but it sounds a faff and would presumably alert you to everything.) It means I have to get back to my old paranoid ways of checking the Scotrail website every time I go to use a train just to check things are running. 

One of Green Dad’s best buddies - let’s call her Totally Green Tania - also suffered at the hands of Scotrail recently. She sat on a train trying to leave Aberdeen for a whole hour before being told it was broken (the train, not Aberdeen - mind you…) and cancelled and she’d have to crowd onto the next one instead. On the plus side people on the cramped service began talking to each other.

Which reminds me why I love to visit London. I take particular delight when I’m on the tube in looking people in the eye, smiling and saying good morning/afternoon/evening. It doesn’t half freak them out.

Last time I was down I took Green Gran and she actually stood with her jaw dropped like a cod fish (I thought I’d stick in a Mary Poppins reference since we’re talking about cor blimey London me old matey) watching commuters literally throw themselves onto the tube trains, squeezing in as the doors closed hard against their backs.

The need to invest in public transport has never been more pressing. The cost of fuel keeps going up so naturally people will look to get around be cheaper means. Sadly some journeys are pricey and unreliable (as I’ve just gurned) and then there’s the palaver of access.

At the Brighton of the North station there are two platforms but only a set of stairs to get across the tracks. It means you can arrive from Inverness at the dreaded Platform Two laden with buggy, shopping and wriggly toddler and face the prospect of somehow getting up the stairs and across the bridge without having a heart attack. Herding deaf cats while blindfolded on a ferry that was pitching and tossing would be easier.

Instead your only option is to trundle across a pothole infested yard, walk down a road with no pavement outside the football pitch and council depot, cross a dangerous and busy junction with limited visibility and go uphill under the railway bridge. As Nairn is being eyed by developers it is clear we can expect the station to become busier. I have asked Scotrail and Transport Scotland what plans they have to improve things. Don’t hold your breath but I will keep you posted!

Back to the White Hell as journalists are fond of calling snow in winter and as I type I’m on the train to Aberdeen approaching Keith. (Keith the town. I’m not approaching Keith the attendant with the refreshment trolley. Railway coffee and sandwiches continue to leave a lot to be desired.)

The watery low sun is casting long shadows over the frosty fields and we’ve just crossed the mirror-like River Spey, reflecting perfectly the pale clear blue sky overhead. The Return of the Snow hasn’t turned me into a gloom merchant. It’s a wonderful view and what’s more the trains are running.

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