I got home from work last night to find a tree had taken out my telephone line!
I wasn’t hugely surprised; listening on the works radio over the rush hour I learned of many flying trees, flying bus stops, even flying roofs.
Now this was not a mystical element to hit Manchester, nor has gravity decided to take a well-earned break. Rather more mundane, the Great British weather was strutting it’s proverbial stuff.
We Brits are good at talking about the weather. I’m sure if there was an Olympic Sport for weather-chat the rest of the world would be left in our wake with no hope of catching up.
But this is quite an odd thing. Whilst we can talk endlessly about it, actually in general the weather in the UK is pretty boring. We get cold bits, but rarely is it colder outside than it is in the kitchen freezer. We get plenty of rain, yet pretty well every summer there is a water shortage and hose-pipe bans are announced. The sun makes the occasional appearance but rarely is the country turned into a national barbecue. And whilst the wind can be strong, it usually pales into insignificance compared to that produced around the rest of the world. This is to the point that even when a tornado ripped through a Birmingham suburb in 2005, it was met more with mirth from the general populus and was the butt of several jokes in the following weeks, although for the people caught up in it, it was far from a laughing matter.
And that’s why this winter in the UK has been so strange.
It hasn’t actually been that cold until this week, and even this is really only a matter over the border into Scotland where suddenly the snow has arrived en masse. Instead it’s been a very wet winter. The south-west counties have been under flood-water for the best part of 2 months now, as storm after storm hurtles in from the Atlantic. Admittedly it only really started making the national news once the Thames started to over-flow into regions of London, but that’s typical of the capital-centric view the country seems to operate on. A flake of snow in central London is enough to make headline news and cause the entire UK-wide public transport network to implode……
And when Manchester gets it bad, you just know that the rest of the country is in trouble. Whilst we’re very much in the ‘wet zone’, heck there’s no surprise that the Textile Revolution in the 18th century was firmly driven from the region, having the Pennines to the East and the Snowdonia Mountains to the west means that the worst of the weather is usually scraped up the side of a mountain rather than reaching us.
But yesterday the winds really did get up. When they forecast hurricane force 12 on the Beaufort Scale, this is rare enough on the coast, but even moreso inland. And for the storm to hit at rush hour only compounded the chaos, with the office-working public scrambling to get home trying to avoid trees jumping out on them like something out of a Tolkien novel and bus shelters travelling along the road faster than the buses themselves.
And then it was over. The strength of the wind dropped later in the evening and the clean-up operation continued.
My neighbours dashed out to see me when I got back and whilst trying to collate the contents of my bins from the garden explained that all the phones were out and their ridge-tiles had done a kamikaze leap to the drive below, thankfully missing everyone and everything bar the concrete they smashed on. It was dark and other than a tree in the middle of the road, which I really couldn’t fathom where it had previously been rooted there seemed to be a surprising lack of damage.
I’d previously wondered if I could do without my landline. And then found I had the opportunity to try! Thankfully I was able to contact my phone/broadband supplier by the power of mobile internet (the call waiting time at 11.30pm was a freaky 45 minutes which could only be due to many reports like the one I was making). Yet I woke up this morning to find a nice man in my garden re-fitting my telephone line. That was an impressive 9 hour turnaround (including overnight).
Only snag is, the next storm is coming in tomorrow. And apparently it’s going to be a big one……..!