Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow and Ice

We woke this morning to snow and ice. What a surprise! We had been told in the weather forecast on television over the past few days that we could expect snow. It's been really quite cold and it had been building up to a good snowfall. The garden is covered in the stuff. The dogs don't know what to make of it. Carol was hoping that she would get a telephone call from the Academy, to say that school was closed, but it never came. I took her this morning, and the roads were clear, and it looked as if snowploughs had been out and we did see a gritter. After last Winter's conditions, I don't think Milton Keynes Council wanted a repeat, and it seemed that they had made some sort of effort to grit the roads. The road leading into the Academy is quite steep. Well, steep for Milton Keynes. Covered in snow and ice, and it really needs clearing, but we managed to get in to the carpark alright.

Last winter, when I was working for Guardian Homecare, we had real fun. I speak from an ironic point of view, as it wasn't actually 'fun'. We were expected to make all our calls, regardless. Carol came with me to a few of my early-morning calls, one being in Wolverton. We left early enough to take into consideration the road conditions. It took some time just to get out of Crownhill, as the road was really trecherous and icy. At one point the car was going sideways, it was that slippery. In all honesty I should have decided not to have gone, but when you have calls to people who are expecting you, you can't not go. In some cases these people don't see anyone else all day. We got to the roundabout that lead onto Grafton Street and Wolverton, and it looked something like a scene from the Siberian wastes. If you've see the original film of "Doctor Zhivago" with Julie Christie and Omar Sharif, the scene where they get stuck on a train somewhere in Northern Russia, and it's mid-winter, and it's thick snow, well, it was rather like that. There was a slow procession of cars, along a sort of de-iced section of road, with a rather thick bit of snow along the right of the car, and we had to drive really carefully, as there was a real danger that, if we braked, we were likely to slide into the vehicle in front.

On the opposite carriageway, it didn't look as if it had been cleared of snow at all, and at one point the traffic had come to a complete and utter standstill. There were H.G.V. vehicles parked up in a long line, there drivers obviously not risking the road and deciding to just park until conditions improved.

Then we got to the double roundabouts leading into Wolverton. The road goes up and over the railway, near the station. Cars had stopped on the hill as the road was so icy and slippery they just couldn't get sufficient traction to make it up the slope of the hill. We stopped on the roandabout and walked up the road to help people push their cars, but no amount of pushing and shoving would budge one particular car, and we had to give up. There was obviously no way we were going to get into Wolverton.

We got back to the car and decided that there was no way we were going to get back to the centre of Milton Keynes along Grafton Street and at that point I rang the office and was told to 'just keep going'. No 'it's too dangerous' or anything. Or 'sorry' or a word of encouragement. What else was I expecting? Gerrie to arrive in a four-wheeler, a vaccuum flask of soup in one hand and a travel rug in the other? You have got to be joking! Too busy totting up the profits for the day to care for her staff, you can be sure, and sitting in a really warm office, her feet up, eating chocolate eclairs!

We eventually managed to turn the car round, having had to avoid sliding into any number of other cars which had ground to a halt on the roundabout, and headed towards New Bradwell. It was the only other route which looked anyway half clear. But it didn't actually turn out that way, as we eventually discovered. we got through New Bradwell and drove past the Tidy Tip. At that point we were going up a hill, but it was so icy and slippery that other cars had stopped. One man attempted to turn his car round in the entrance to the Tidy Tip, but he made a really poor job of it, basically because he was going too slowly and in the wrong gear, so his car was stuck half-way across the road, which prevented any other vehicle passing. We attempted to give some sort of assistance, but he was rather rude to us, so we went back to our car. Some people don't deserve help, he being one such person. We had to go back through New Bradwell and to the Wolverton roundabout, and eventually went towards Stony Stratford, and we found that the road there was just as clogged up. And virtually no sign that the road had been cleared by snow plough.

We did eventually get back to Crownhill, but all in all our little adventure had taken over THREE HOURS. I decided that I would risk all and go to another call in Bletchley, and Carol said that she wanted to come with me. We got out of Crownhill and onto the main grid road, but then, as I applied the brakes going towards one of the roundabouts, there was a really nasty grinding noise coming from the brakes. I really didn't know whether the car was going to stop, and was concerned that we would run into a car on the roundabout. It was then that I thought that perhaps all the driving in the snow and ice earlier had effected the car's braking system (perhaps ice had got into the discs, considering that in some places the snow was up over the wheels to quite a height, so that some ice and grit had got into the brakes, which was likely to have caused the grinding.) We turned the car round, very gingerly, and was really wary of using the brakes, just in case we didn't stop, and went home. I rang the agency (oh, I mustn't call it that, silly me!) and said that, due to the conditions and what was happening to the car, I wasn't going out for the rest of the day. I got a really negative response,  (what did I expect . . . !) but  all this was from a safety point of view. I wanted to take the car to the garage to get them to check the brakes, which I eventually did and found that there was no real danger. There was some grit in the brake discs, which was cleaned out, but I was certainly not going to risk life and limb until it was checked.
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