Snow and Britain: Why we were caught pants down?

It’s gone, or at least it’s going. And even adults with the most ebullient inner eight-year-olds don’t seem sad. In London parks, grubby snowmen stand lonely sentry, in rural towns at least it’s stopped long enough to dig out the car. Time to pause and reflect, before the next dump, on things we’ve learnt from the snow.

Well, for one thing that the universe doesn’t care about our cancelled mini-breaks. That no sledge gets you down a hillside faster than a fertiliser bag stuffed with snow. Below minus 4C, a Ting Tings CD case is an inadequate tool to de-ice a windscreen. Uggs are no more waterproof than slipper-socks, repellent to men, and even a new ice age wouldn’t grant a fashion amnesty to wear them beyond the school run.

But this winter has also made us think anew about our capacity to take risk, our self-reliance. It has made us wonder if David Cameron is right: that society is run by health-and-safety fusspots. A potent image has emerged of the poor snowed-in householder ignored by the grit lorry, yet told not to clear his own pavement because he’d be sued if someone slipped. Are we really thwarted in our helpful impulses by finger-wagging bureaucracy?

I called the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), who would have plenty to gain from such cases. Its spokesman insists that this is a snow myth as big as the yeti. If we clear the snow we must merely show “reasonable responsibility”.

As a country, we don’t have much feeling for snow. Couldn’t some government minister organise a photo op, be filmed in bobble hat and Christmas jumper, clearing his own few square metres, while announcing that — to aid our overstretched council workforce — we should all do our bit. He could demonstrate the correct method without making the path treacherous. In the suburbs, folk are scraping their roads anyway, whatever the scare stories, and knocking on elderly neighbours’ doors offering to clear theirs too.

But would this imply a Labour Government fessing up to a failure of central infrastructure planning? I wonder if David Cameron will appear next winter digging post-victory in his drive for social responsibility. In any case, it would be useful if the Prime Minister informed British children that snow does not entitle them to a national holiday. State school heads this week congratulated themselves on opening up for GCSEs: but if they could manage it for exams, why not every day?

But here is something to ponder.

At one time there was a rule that, if the teacher could not get to their usual school, then they had to go to their nearest school and report for work.

Not ideal, but at least there would be some teachers available and no reason to close schools.

If the teachers do not report for work then they should not be paid.
Many of the working parents have been forced to take unpaid time off work due to the soft system.

The “health-and-safety-monster” is NOT a myth. The myth is that it is the fault of the HSE. It is the direct result of judges making ridiculous decisions of liability and awarding enormous compensation payments.

It is also the fault of our law of precedence. It may be the case the 99% of judges today do not agree with the judge many years ago who judged that clearing the snow from the pavement outside your house made you liable for any accident but they, through precedence, would have to follow this judgement. I would not myself want to take the risk in time and money to test out Janice Turner’s theory that I would be OK provided I show “reasonable responsibility”. Lawyers and judges are like statistics. They can come to any conclusion they want.

Either changes will need to be made to our laws to curb judges making poor decisions or it will be necessary for judges to stand for election before schools act in the way that Janice Turner wants when snow falls.

Take that for now my friends but i sometimes think Kigali is better organised than modern Britain. But then one wd ask, why are you living here, plain simple, i cant live there!

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Author: ellyakanga

I am Eleneus Akanga. Welcome to my blog about my experience as a Rwandan journalist and all that comes with the trade in East Africa. It's been a great journey so far but very challenging at times. Join me, let's get cracking! ellyakanga@usa.com

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