Previously Posted: In Shackleton’s Footsteps

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

In Shackleton’s Footsteps (08.01.2010)

When I start my cab for a day’s work the last thing on my mind is that I’m an intrepid traveller, but surely I must be, for last year when London was covered with 2 inches of snow the Metropolitan Police announced that the roads were” too dangerous” for their patrol cars to venture out. Upon hearing this snippet of news I just shrugged my shoulders, carried on working and entered a moan in my Diary.

Now 4 weeks later London’s roads are on the cusp of total chaos, all for the want of some salt. According to a recent newspaper article, American weathermen predicted cold of a variety not seen in over 25 years in England, while our own Met Office, after telling us that were to experience a barbecue summer, then told us to brace ourselves for a warmer than average winter in Britain.

So of course London’s councils, ever wishing to reduce spending have run down their supplies of salt, and Boris when questioned about the possibility of London’s roads being impassable, after carefully removing his bicycle clips, told us that London’s councils can’t gear up for the occasional severe winter with all the expense that they would incur for the occasional freak weather.

But hold on just a minute, didn’t the boys from the Met Office predict that we all would experience climate change in our lifetimes, and probably catastrophe would ensue within ten years if we didn’t stop driving our cars and recycle our baked bean cans?

I hate to admit it but I’m old enough to remember the winter of 1962-3, so please try at least to look like you are interested while I relate this anecdote to you of that winter.
Snow fell in London on Boxing Day, by the 29th and 30th December a blizzard across south-west England and Wales left drifts 20 feet deep which blocked roads and rail routes, left villages cut off and brought down power lines and thanks to further falls and almost continual near-freezing temperatures, snow was still deep on the ground across much of the country three months later.

In the intervals when snow was not falling, the country simply appeared to freeze solid with January daytime temperatures barely creeping above freezing, and night frosts producing a temperature of -16 °C in places. In January the sea froze out to half a mile from the shore at Herne Bay, the Thames froze right across in places, and ice floes appeared on the river at Tower Bridge. February was marked by more snow arriving on south-easterly winds during the first week, with a 36-hour blizzard hitting western parts of the country, drifts 20 feet deep formed in gale-force winds and many rural communities found themselves cut off for the tenth time since Christmas.

Eventually a gradual thaw then set in, and the morning of 6th March 1963 was the first day in the year that the entire country was frost free, and the temperature soared to 17 °C in London helping us to recover from a winter that was probably the coldest since 1795.
So don’t tell me about climate change and that we cannot cope when we get 6 inches of snow in London during January.

2 thoughts on “Previously Posted: In Shackleton’s Footsteps”

  1. I remember the 1963 winter too. Life went on, trains managed to run, and there was something like the spirit of WW2 in London. I wore outdoor clothes to go to bed with my hot water bottle, and my mum and dad eventually bought us electric blankets. They were expensive luxuries at the time, and they paid them off over 52 weeks from a catalogue..
    Cheers, Pete.


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