Ordinarily, one might think that a documentary about weather would be pretty boring; filled with tweed jacketed meteorologists with deathly boring voices going on about pressure and bars and fronts, but this series – dedicated to the vagaries of weather – has been fascinating, and last night’s episode, Snow, was no less, if not more, interesting than the others have been.
This was in part because it turns out that in 1991, when British Rail notoriously claimed that the ‘wrong type of snow’ had disabled most of the country’s rail system – and were ridiculed the land over for that statement – they were right! The snow that year was of a sort that Engineer Larry Shore stated indignantly caused terrible damage to the trains.
“The trains were sandblasted with it! Hundreds of engines ruined….”
This was clearly something that Larry still grieves over and laments deeply but I don’t think there’s any kind of therapy group he could join to help him get over it… bless him.
Mind you, it drives me insane when a few flakes of snow – be they the wrong or right type – bring Britain to a halt. On February 1st this year, my husband and I took a flight to Spain from East Midlands airport and were told our flight had been delayed due to the snow… at that time, about three flakes had fallen.
This type of thing always prompts me to wonder how do Switzerland go on or Russia or other places where snow is an everyday occurrence more or less? But like many of us, I do love to moan about the effects of snow, but I equally love to see it. That white blanket of glistening, diamond-esque magnificence that always seems to bring with it a particular silence is beautiful – until it turns to sludge or gloopy ice or stops me from getting on a plane on time…
Anyway, back to the show and we got to hear a multitude of interesting facts about snow, some of which I knew and many more I didn’t. For instance, I didn’t know that water doesn’t necessarily freeze when the thermometer hits zero but I did know that all snowflakes are six sided.
One of the best bits of the documentary was watching a professor in Japan who “grows” ‘artificial’ snow. It was all with the aid of filaments and other bits of gadgetry that you had to be there to see, but seeing an actual snowflake develop from miniscule crystals in front of my eyes was enthralling stuff!
However, I’d have to say overall that I found the archive footage and personal recollections of ‘the big snow’ or ‘the harshest winter ever’ type stuff the most fun.
There was a contribution from Dickie Bird who – I’m terribly sorry Dickie – for some reason I thought had died long since, but anyway, he recounted how in June 1975, snowfall halted a cricket match in Derbyshire.
“Clive Lloyd was very excited… They just started throwing snowballs!” he said with that lovely mellifluous voice of his.
Then there was a lady called Christine who, when she was aged 16, had to walk to the farm where she worked through a blizzard of unprecedented proportions. Six hours it took her and when she got there, she fed the animals then did the walk again to go home! That’s dedication right there and by rights, she should be given a prize of some kind.
During the programme, Christine reconstructed her walk but given there was no hint of snow it didn’t have quite the impact that one would’ve hoped. You’d think BBC2 could’ve at least provided a snow machine or something, but there we are, that’s cut backs for you.
The programme ended predictably enough with dire warnings about global warming and how we’re all going to become “snow tourists” and how those traditional Christmas card images of robins sitting on snow laden branches will inevitably become only a fond memory…
In years to come, Christmas cards will probably depict birds of paradise sipping cocktails atop a melting iceberg, but despite the we’ll-never-see-snow-in-the-future stuff, which put something of a downer on the general wintery joie de vivre of the show, it was nonetheless an interesting and entertaining show, and from the BBC these days, that’s noteworthy in and of itself!