Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

Today we were scheduled to travel up to the Midlands for an appointment. We awoke to snow. In most places this would not be a problem, but this is England. Here, any form of extreme weather has the potential to cause chaos. This is the land of traffic jams thirty miles long and forty mile journeys that take six hours. In short, it’s a place where you think twice about setting out on a long journey if the weather is looking a bit off, and particularly if huge great fluffy flakes of snow are falling from the sky and not melting when they hit the ground.

What does not help is the propensity for the media to blow any story about the weather completely out of proportion. For the last two days, my local radio station ran “It’s going to snow on Wednesday” as a separate news item - not as part of the weather report. So when I awoke to a traffic report that suggested it was going to take a heck of a long time to get anywhere and “who knows, it will probably get worse”, I probably should have taken it with a grain of salt, but it worried me nonetheless.

You see, I am a planner. I schedule nearly everything. (The thought of being without my iPhone with its calendar makes me break out in a cold sweat.) The positive side to this is that I am nearly always in the right place at the right time. The downside is that when I do have to deviate from my schedule, it makes me distinctly uncomfortable. I do not cancel appointments willy nilly. Even if it is something I really do not want to do, I will be there, on time.

In the spirit of this, I was pretty darn determined my son and I were still heading up to the Midlands today, particularly as our journeys up to the Midlands are usually quite good fun, so much so that I look forward to them. I even debated taking the train. (To the point my son walked off in frustration saying “First it’s the car, then the train, then the car...what are we doing???”) But then even bigger flakes of snow began to fall and an attempt to leave in the car revealed that the roads were really slippery. It wasn’t the getting up to the Midlands I was worried about, it was the coming home.

I thought about what things were like on the roads and the trains the last time we had snow. And as my husband had already suggested (rather strongly) that heading anywhere more than a few miles away - and where we were going is nearly 150 - really wasn’t a good idea, I thought about what he would say if I did get stuck or have an accident. Then I thought about what five hours in a car on a motorway miles from any toilets would be like - or how awful being stuck on a train for hours somewhere in the middle of nowhere would be. And I caved and came back home.

And it kept on snowing....

until just a few minutes after I phoned to cancel the appointment and my son was dropped at the train station to go to college.

Then it started to melt as it fell.

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray,” Robert Burns

(Although the poem this quotation is taken from was written with a political intention, it is a beautiful one if you take it just as it reads, as an apology from a farmer to a mouse for turning over her nest with a plough. To read it, click here. (I particularly like it written in dialect - what a wonderful word is “beastie” when referring to a mouse!) Robert Burns Day - and particularly Burns Night - is celebrated on 25th January each year in Scotland and throughout the world with haggis, traditional Scottish food and whisky. It’s quite good fun, but I’m afraid I always have to pass on the haggis!)

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