“Whaddya want for Crimbo babe?” The annoying man asks his girlfriend via webcam.
“Surprise me” she replies.
Thus ran the opening dialogue in an irritating mobile phone ad campaign in the lead up to Christmas. A man uses a home-made snow machine to make a pure hames of his girlfriend’s front garden while she peers out the window looking all surprised.
After the 14th day of ‘Crimbo’ I imagine she’s gotten over her surprise now. Snow is like having legendary Rolling Stone and hard-liver Keith Richards in your house, it’s exciting for a short time but after a while you wouldn’t mind returning to normal life. The whole concept of fluffy white flakes falling from the sky and creating a magical winter wonderland is great in itself. It’s the cold that accompanies the snow that’s the problem. If we could have snow in warmer weather like the Crimbo-llox from the ad, I don’t think anyone would have a complaint.
We should have seen this weather coming. A postman in Donegal correctly predicted a white Christmas based on signs he noticed in the natural world. In the days before the holidays, this year the entrances to many fox-dens showed clear signs of being gritted. County Councils reported that much of their salt had been stolen by otters.
For a country who loves to talk about the weather, the length and depth of this freeze leaves us at a loss for words. When we had no weather at all, two office colleagues could have a detailed ten minute water-cooler conversation sparked by nothing more than the frisson of a gently zephyr blowing in from the sea. Two farmers could lean on a gate pondering the consequences based on a feeling that it might be about to rain, an inkling of a change in barometric pressure.
But faced with real weather, like what they have on the television, it’s hard to do the situation justice with words. Many twenty somethings have never driven on roads this icy and struggle to find the appropriate metaphor. I heard one man try to get across to his friend just how slippery the roads were and eventually said “The roads were like ice”.
Very like ice in fact.
Ireland is not unique in suffering a cold snap. In Beijing recent snowstorms have caused a complete shutdown and the government has mobilised an army of three hundred thousand citizens to shovel snow. We do things differently here. An army of three hundred thousand has been mobilised to ring Joe Duffy to complain about why someone else isn’t shovelling the snow. A particular focus for Liveline listeners was the situation in Dublin city centre on New Years Eve where a couple of heavy snow showers paralysed public transport and left many stranded. As one taxi driver complained “Who was in charge Joe, djanorameeyan? Where was the Head Engineer n’anyways? Partyin I’d say he was. Joe.
As we ponder the image of what kind of partying a head engineer might get up to – necktie around the forehead, air guitar and so on – it’s clear the grit has hit the fan. Griteracy rates are rising as people bone up on the finer points of aggregate and sediment and particularly now that there is a whiff of suspicion that the government may be somehow to blame.
Just like our economic collapse, the country is asking: where did all the grit go? Did the government squander the grit during the boom? One thing is for certain, we need to get moving again and can’t surive without a regular supply of the stuff.
Rumours are rife that the grit supply for the blind and those on social welfare has been reduced while the gritting of the country’s main banks has been given priority. Michael Fingleton, former head of the Irish Nationwide is allegedly still refusing to return a ton of grit that he received as part of his controversial retirement package.
Grit isn’t the only thing to be in short supply. When the National Roads Authority claims to have everything under control, we can’t even take what they say with a pinch of salt – there’s just not enough of it around.
Accusations fly about our inability to deal with snow. Under-pressure officials have taken to reducing the size of the units used to measure the snow so that the accumulations appear higher. In the UK, they’ve had one foot, Knock airport was closed on Tuesday due to a reported “FIVE míllimetres”.
As further showers dumped up to 50,000 nanometres of snow along the east coast this week, it’s worth remembering that even coppery-coloured clouds have silver linings.
For our eastern European residents, it provides the perfect opportunity to say things like “Pah! Minus 10 degrees, this is nothing, in my country we play beach volleyball in these conditions. I teach my four-old son to drive a truck in more snow than this.”
For the natives, freezing weather is a great excuse to stay inside and do nothing.
Christmas present box-sets can now be watched in full. It’s entirely acceptable, for example, to watch all 13 hours of the first series of The Wire over the course of one day. The Wire has won many awards and is widely acknowledged to be the greatest TV series ever made. Set in the tough housing projects of Baltimore, it’s hard hitting, authentic; and gritty, which can surely be no bad thing.
Despite this, for a significant proportion of the adult population, the lustre of a white Christmas seems to have dimmed following this year’s polar lows.
So next Christmas, if your boyfriend asks you what you want for ‘Crimbo’ and you know him to be a tool, it would be better to just ask for a nice scarf.
Inspired by Rage Against the Machine’s unlikely success in 2009, I’ve already set my sights on penning the next Christmas number one. OffWhite Christmas.
I’m dreaming of a grey Christmas,
With Atlantic Fronts I used to know
Scattered showers pissing
And Sunshine missing
And here, feck-all chance of snow.