Mark Andrews – Space exploration, artificial intelligence, yet we are still laid low by a dusting of snow

It was watching the wheels spin on a neighbour's 4x4 that told me this was going to be interesting.

A bit of snow brings us all to a standstill
A bit of snow brings us all to a standstill

Lulled into a false sense of security by the light covering of snow the night before, I had not been expecting a particularly difficult journey into work. It was only a 'yellow' warning, after all. We didn't even get the cursory 'don't drive unless it is really necessary' off the weatherman, which we all know is really code for 'certain public-sector workers can take the day off'.

For a country which suffers from snow every winter, we aren't half hopeless at dealing with it. A few flakes of snow, and we all become snowflakes. Myself included.

And we seem to be getting worse at it. I'm too young to remember the stories about frost inside the windows during the winter of '47, yet somehow they still managed to keep the trains running. Look at all the schools that closed this week for no good reason. Even when I was at school, they would have just hired a Calor Gas heater and told us to keep our coats on.

It's not as if we weren't warned. For weeks the weather forecasters had been warning us to brace ourselves for the 'coldest March on record' – which doesn't sit so well with the global warming narrative – and there had been lurid warnings about the new 'Beast from the East'.

I guess this is where the culture warrior in me falls down. For about 50 weeks of the year I rail against 'Chelsea tractors', people who buy off-roaders as fashion accessories without ever setting wheel on so much as a blade of grass. And then on weeks like this, I look pitifully at the trio of long, low two-wheel drive cars at my disposal, and wonder why I never thought to buy one that could actually cope with the snow.

It doesn't help that I live on the side of a flipping great hill. I'm told that if you face eastwards, the next highest point is the Ural Mountains in Russia, but then I've heard similar claims made about pretty much every hill in the Midlands. Maybe it's just human nature to dramatise these things. Perhaps that's why the television weathermen always talk in centigrade: 'minus four' sounds so much more macho than '25 degrees and a touch of frost'.

The snow also seems to bring out the worst in drivers. And by that, I mean the worst in other drivers, obvs. Waiting patiently behind a poor Mercedes driver sliding all over the road as he tried to get up the steep hill, I became aware that I slid back an inch or so every time I stepped off the brake pedal. Not wanting to roll into the car behind I edged forward a few inches, to create a bit of distance. Guess what? The one behind moves forward to close the gap. Was that really going to get him to work any quicker?

Then there was the VW driver who decided he couldn't be doing with the wait, and saw fit to overtake the entire line of traffic on the wrong side of the road. Nice one.

But perhaps our inability to cope with the white stuff demonstrates how we have failed to evolve as a species, how we have been blown off course and distracted by the things that aren't really important.

It is 54 years since we put man on the moon, and mobile phones are now so sophisticated that blinged-up Russian gangsters can empty our bank accounts at the touch of a few buttons. 'Artificial intelligence' can even produce 'art work' now, although the results are hardly very convincing.

We are told that driverless cars are just around the corner, yet we still haven't devised a way of ensuring the ones with drivers can navigate the daily commute the moment it gets a bit nippy.

I'm sure we could do this if we set our minds to it, look at how undersoil heating put a stop to top-flight football matches being postponed. It's about the will, and the resources, being directed in the right direction.

We should stop worrying about driverless cars and artificial intelligence, and learn how to live with the British weather.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News