Monday, 21 January 2013


Hania's snowy peaks at the Lefka Ori are a very pretty sight at the moment, especially since we are having a run of good weather right now, so that the view from the lowlands to the highlands is very clear. While Crete is experiencing temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius, the UK seems to be covered in snow, with freezing temperatures, zero visibility and treacherous driving conditions.  
The heavy snowfall in Northern Europe has shed light on the fears of a culture rooted in the Protestant work ethic: the havoc of snowy conditions has pitted this work ethic against common sense. Flights, trains and even horse races have been cancelled - but people are insisting on getting to work. I'd hate to be a parent in this position: wouldn't it be better to keep my children and myself safe at home on a day like this, than to put on an act of bravery battling with the forces of nature? Do you really need to have an official authority tell you whether to go to work/school? Are schools really 'slacking off' just because of the snow? And why do walkers need to be officially warned not to venture up mountains during heavy snowfall? Can't they see it would be foolish to try this?

What happens when one person braved the weather and got to work (albeit in a disheveled state) while the others didn't? Should the 'snow holiday' be treated as annual leave? Should teachers and children make up for lost lessons by going in to school on Saturdays? And what's the litmus test in this case? how much snow there is at your front door? 
'Perish the thought that a bus crashed in the bad weather carrying children to school' wrote a reader to the BBC's live snow updates. But that's just what happened anyway. I feel sorry for the parents who put their kids on that bus, placing trust in the social system, instead of taking heed of their own misapprehensions; I feel sorry for the bus driver who did what he thought was being expected of him, instead of listening to his instincts;  I feel sorry for those children who will now have nightmares of a possible bad end to that bus ride. But all this could have been avoided. At times like this, Europe's northwestern extremity could take lessons from her southeastern extremity: If you don't need to be out, then don't go out. It may feel like a small challenge getting to work/school - but that return journey home might end up being a nightmare. 

It's an identity thing, isn't it? It's the fear of being branded a slacker in a Keep-Calm-and-Carry-On culture. 
One thing is certain: Northern Europeans need to warm up their bones. Time to book a holiday to Crete.

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