Monday, 5 March 2018

Snowstorm UK. A Glasgow Gallery. From Russia With Love. Book Review.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Over the past week much of the UK has been experiencing Arctic/ Siberian weather conditions.  In previous Scottish winters I can remember lower temperatures- down to minus 20+ below- when the River Clyde froze solid right into the heart of the city centre but I'd have to go right back to the 1970s and 1980s to recall the last time we have had such intense prolonged snowfalls in the Central Belt that lasted so long on the low level roads and pavements
As driving conditions were fairly horrendous with a 50/50 chance of getting completely stuck somewhere I decided, after a bit of path clearing duties, to get out at some point both days of the big snowstorms- by bus- to view the conditions for myself.  This is the normally busy Dumbarton Road near Yoker in Glasgow around 3:00pm.  I learned later, from the news, that 1000 plus vehicles- HGVs, vans and cars, had been trapped overnight on massive static tailbacks on Scotland's roads. No surprise there as over 24 inches  of snow, driven by strong winds, fell within a 24 hour period and no amount of grit or snow ploughs can cope with that in this country where we are not geared up for full arctic conditions every year.
Even now, a full week later, many of Glasgow's side roads are still covered in snow with cars stuck and un-moving outside houses although, most trains, buses and taxis are back on. A week later most suburban pavements still have knee deep snow covering them, which is unusual. It just show how quickly any modern city can grind to a complete halt given the right circumstances as many shops also had bare shelves after a few days with food deliveries unable to get through. Without cars to drive in folk reverted to walking everywhere through the snowdrifts, thigh deep in a few places I soon discovered, and messages were restricted to what you could carry home in bags or a rucksack.  Civilization is a fairly thin membrane at times.
Even in the city centre the streets were soon buried in a foot or more of the white stuff that lasted for many days. Miserable for anyone sleeping rough in the UK's towns and cities (over 5000 homeless people just in Scotland alone according to latest estimated figures for 2018 and 300,000 in the UK as a whole but the true amount I'm sure is usually far higher than that with these statistic table figures. For instance-  most ordinary UK workers will never, ever earn the oft quoted "average annual wage" in their lifetime or anything close to it. Calculated at £27,600 in 2015. I certainly never have at any point and I didn't consider myself particularly low paid.)
This is around Pitt Street/ Bath Street district. With much of this area built over drumlins (small glacial moraine hill deposits) any cars brave enough to tackle these conditions were having a hard time and I gave several drivers a helping hand to get home with a push. Although it was forecast in the news to occur many workers felt compelled to show up and brave the elements to get into work or face disciplinary measures in some cases only to find (in the case of shops) that few other people were around to serve.
This is approaching Garnethill in the heart of Glasgow's city centre. Conditions and visibility here were similar to a mountain summit with fierce winds, heavy snow and iced up eyelashes. I had the full mountaineering gear on so was well equipped and toasty but anyone in normal city clothes wouldn't last very long without shelter.
A view back down towards Sauchiehall Street from Garnethill. Even Glasgow's main shopping streets were reduced to one narrow ribbon of single lane traffic. A nightmare for any bus and train drivers unlucky enough to be caught within it with passengers to worry about- never mind their own safety and vehicle to consider.
The Anderston Centre complex.
Three local characters in Anderston. Engineer and Inventor James Watt, Trade Union Activist, Politician, and Journalist, Jimmy Reid, (with hand up in the middle) and mountaineering author and broadcaster Tom Weir. All tough guys used to being outdoors but Tom's the best equipped for the conditions and looks right in his element here.
I was walking on foot of course, having left my borrowed skis behind this time. Not so handy for hopping on buses.... or going up here onto the elevated concrete ribbons soaring above the M8 Motorway and the Clydeside Expressway.
Clydeside expressway seen here.
The 'bridge to somewhere' connecting Anderston District to the City Centre district.
The cage.
Old Habitat building near Bothwell Street. Normally busy but a near ghost town in these conditions.
Bothwell Street/Wateroo Street district. City centre office land.

Enough snow in outlying areas to build igloos and snow tunnels in a city park.
The Renfrew Ferry looking like an arctic crossing.
And a desperate time for any wildlife, Redwing thrushes here sheltering under a hedge and searching for food in the few green areas left exposed. Roughly half of all wildlife die in very harsh winters, especially smaller birds and animals, although predators do well as there's plenty to eat for them. In a milder winter they go hungry instead. Given help they do bounce back though, having bigger families in favourable conditions with enough food available and a stable breeding season. It can take five to ten years though for numbers to fully recover.
Park Circus Towers.
Park Circus from Garnethill.
Almost whiteout conditions in Kelvingrove Park failed to put families off sledging and skiing down the grassy slopes there.  By this time it was a full blown blizzard but Scottish skiers are well used to these conditions on the slopes and very few headed for home.
The folk skiing had the best of it here as they could turn in time with far more control to avoid people emerging suddenly in front of them out the murk.
I did have to head for home however, as the intense cold was really starting to penetrate now, even with full mountain gear, and with the increased levels of snow falling continuously without letup the threat of buses being  pulled off the roads was a certainty. Luckily, I was just in time to get one of the last buses back to my home district on the outskirts of the city where the snow was lying two feet deep in the roads and on pavements by nightfall everywhere. Eight to ten foot drifts in the surrounding countryside and upland villages. 'Beast from the East' for some undoubtedly- for the infirm, the elderly, stranded drivers, isolated communities, the wildlife, anyone living on a hill, but 'From Russia with Love' for many others.

 We do not get this much snow very often in the UK, being a thin country surrounded by water, so it was a very memorable and exciting outing.

As was this. Runaway by Peter May. I bought this best selling book at a book sale recently and devoured it within a few days. Many books I read- best sellers or not- I might enjoy or find interesting at the time but fail to remember a month or two later, but a rare few make a real lasting impression. Before The Poison by Peter Robinson. A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett. Edge of Dark Water by  Joe R Lansdale all fall into this limited category of books I'll remember many decades later and that most readers will enjoy.  Maybe not the authors name or even the title but the general story will remain in my mind, even 50 years later. I know this as I still remember a few from 50 odd years ago in primary school- even the titles like The Green Bunyip by Judith Whitlock from the early 1960s. I read it that one time only and it stuck with me forever, for some reason, despite never hearing or seeing it again. Couldn't tell you if it's aged well or if it's still a classic- or not.  Runaway is in that same class of stickability for certain reasons I'll keep to myself and I enjoyed it vividly. Either due to the skill of the writer to tell a believable compelling story with great characters (his own largely autobiographical account of a journey set in Glasgow, Leeds and London in the mid 1960s with a group of teenage friends) or even as a result of my own life story uncannily mirroring aspects of the book in several key places... but I found myself on an uncharacteristic roller-coaster of conflicting and different emotions all the way through with never a dull page encountered. Few books have moved me as emotionally or as intensely as this one. Like the author (and many of that era, 1960s to 1980s ) I often felt an overwhelming and almost primitive compulsion to fly the nest and head off down to London during my teenage years, despite coming from a large city myself.
London was where all my favourite bands, music artists, painters, writers, etc seemed to hail from and I apparently had a lemming like inbuilt desire to make that journey myself when I reached a certain age, almost instinctively, like so many others throughout the UK, without any knowledge of what I would do or where I would stay once I got there. I wasn't unhappy at home but for several generations in Britain it seemed to be almost programmed into the youth mentality of that period that it was the right thing to do and the place to be. I don't think it's as strong as that now as a collective urge affecting young people in the UK today but for me, very fortunately as it happened, on my own tentative solo visits in the 1970s, the streets were paved with gold, yielding a precious lone gift/ nugget to take back over the border, like an old time raiding party.

 'Most reviews I've read praise this book highly but a few (there's always a few no matter how good) said it was 'cliched and predictable with convenient coincidences.' Which is true- it is in certain places- but cliches in general can also be universal truths pertinent to any culture or time reguarding humanity and I was immediately sucked into this book from the first page to the last. Landscapes and urban settings I was very familiar with on a daily basis mixed in with interesting social history I could also research/check easily enough online where required, youthful excitement, on the road adventures, romance and a strong feeling of loss and melancholy surged up in several places/ chapters so it was certainly never dull. A book I'll remember and cherish in my bookcase for what remains of my life and well worth a read. I've also read countless clever, intellectual, critically acclaimed books over the years that proved a real struggle to get through and finish yet faded from memory almost overnight after all the effort. This was very easy to read, understand, like, and identify with. A modern classic.

And an appropriate video for the weather.



Rosemary said...

Thank goodness the snow is over, and hopefully that is it for this year. We got off very lightly even though we were on the edge of a red weather warning zone! I admire you for braving the arctic conditions even though you were well attired.
The wall graffiti looks like a Banksy - I should be better informed about him come Thursday as I am attending a lecture called 'Bristol's Banksy - Street Art'?

Anabel Marsh said...

What an adventure! I walked what I thought was quite a lot in it, but nothing like as much as that. The parks almost had a party atmosphere with all the sledges and snow shoes. Not looking so pretty now though.

Carol said...

The homeless would be better off - they could dig snowholes!

It certainly was intense cold which I couldn't escape for days! My central heating (boiler) broke down at my house (that's the only heating it has) and the heating was off at work when I struggled in for my lonely nightshifts (everyone else reckoned they couldn't get in). What a miserable week that was! I couldn't believe we were having such severe cold in March - I'm sure we never did before. I know we had cold winters but March is hardly winter. I've seen the hawthorns out in mid Feb around here before and certainly by March!

Hope it never happens again while I'm alive - I hate the cold! :-(

Linda W. said...

Wow - that's quite the snowstorm! Thanks for braving the weather to get photos of it.

blueskyscotland said...

Spot on Rosemary, It is. I had to look that up as its an old LP released not long before A.H. died but the mural is newer.Also listened to the original version of that song and found some good stuff for a future post.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
That was enjoyable compared to a hill ascent in a blizzard where you would not see anything interesting at all. Some folk find appalling conditions on the hills a challenge but I gladly leave that dubious pleasure for a much younger crowd to experience now.

blueskyscotland said...

Are you sure you're not a Conservative MP Carol? You would fit right in :o)
Sadly, the snow in the city centre was not deep enough for snow holes or igloos for the homeless and it was the wrong type of snow anyway- very light powder so no use for structures although it felt heavy enough shoveling tons of it out the way.
Had a memory of deep snow a few years ago end of March- start of April time so I looked it up... it was 23rd March 2013 and eventually 15 feet drifts fell in Cumbria, Yorkshire and Scotland. I remember seeing all the photos and it was so deep up high it lasted for weeks. The difference this time, in Scotland at least, was that it was concentrated in the low lying Central Belt- Glasgow/Edinburgh corridor instead of over the mountains where it usually occurs- and it landed deep and heavy very fast closing roads within a few hours.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda W,
My pleasure. It was good fun. A lot easier taking photos in driving snow than driving rain.

Carol said...

I am 'Tory' voting when there's no UKIP, yes.

It wasn't the snow which worried me in March - it was the severity of the cold. We'll never get spring at this rate! I've seen snow in June briefly...

blueskyscotland said...

I knew that :o)
In the past I've rock climbed in heavy snowfalls in the months of April and June, 2000 foot up a mountain wall with knee deep drifts and ice coating the ledges. Unexpected and not recommended. Utterly miserable while it lasted but some of the joys of Spring climbing at height.

Anonymous said...

I drove through Glasgow during "rush hour" on the Thursday of that week and it was surreal to see the M8 completely empty. As we dropped down to Dumbarton we saw side roads blocked with what looked like well over a foot of snow, people struggling through with shopping bags as there were no buses or trains running. 15 mins later by the shores of Loch Lomond there was almost no snow. A strange journey