Peter Bills: Britain wakes up to some hard cold truths


This missive comes to you from Monsieur Angry.

Here he sits, stuck in the charmless cabin of a British Airways Boeing 767, on the ground at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport ... for an estimated 3 hour delay.

The aircraft is primed, ready to go. Just one problem. England is closed. In fact, it has hardly been open for about a week now. This week 7000 schools were shut, numerous villages cut off and transport links severed.

Survival stories more akin to expeditions to the South Pole have been emerging, like previously believed lost humans in an ice age freeze. One man took 28 hours to travel from London to Brighton, about as far as Auckland to Matamata.

Others found themselves trapped on trains that slithered to a halt and never moved again for a day or more. The cause of all this chaos was snow.

Now railways in Britain have long had a reputation for producing the daftest excuses imaginable for delays. One once blamed "the wrong kind of leaves on the line" in autumn, another, "the wrong kind of snow".

This time it's fog and snow. Maybe it's the right kind, maybe the wrong, but it's just another of the climatic challenges that regularly prove far too much for those who try to run Britain.

A nation that made its reputation as a "can do" kind of country sufficient even to muddle through a world war as eventual victors, simply can't do anything these days. Of course, had Adolf Hitler known all this back in 1939, he needn't have wasted so many soldiers and so much money on armaments trying to blast Britain out of the war.

Giant machines flying over Britain pumping out billions of tonnes of fake snow or evil fog would have had Britain on its knees in hours. If only Uncle Adolf had known ...

The sense of enterprise and spirit seems to have gone AWOL from Britain. One headmaster was astonished to find, after driving 40km from his home to his school over icy, snowy roads in the county of Kent, a local school drawn from pupils in the vicinity, had remained shut.

The ability to negotiate difficulties, to think outside the box and orchestrate some clever strategy to deal with prevailing conditions or circumstances seems beyond contemporary Britons. Their lives have become so regimented, so structured by such absurdities as the "Health and Safety Act" that they have become like ants, only able to operate at the command of their leader. Few seem able to think for themselves, find another way to exist and perhaps use some inventive powers to circumnavigate a difficulty thrown before them.

Britain is hardly a third world country but it sometimes acts like one. While other nations of northern Europe such as Germany and the Scandinavian countries, which are often prone to far heavier falls of snow, manage to maintain their businesses and go about their everyday lives, brainless Britain grinds to a halt.

Yet of all the countries of the world, this one was once regarded as one of the most inventive. It produced brilliant human beings with outstanding minds and characters by the thousands. Yet the dumbing down of the nation in recent years has diminished the ability of people to think and act on their own initiative. Wiley, resourceful people do well. Such attributes can be valuable in even the most mundane circumstances yet the Brits struggle to think on their feet, even if they're keeping them on a snow-covered path.

The ability to operate and make instant decisions is a much needed resource for the human being. A few years back, together with some friends, I went tobogganing one snowy day. A friend hurtled down the hill, somehow caught his leg in the steel bar beneath the sledge and broke it badly.

We had a choice: wait for the ambulance for who knows how long. Or, adapting to the conditions, use them in our favour. We carefully strapped him to the toboggan and pulled him over the snow covered fields and streets to a nearby hospital. He arrived long before any official rescue could have helped.

Now the feared "Elf and Safety" commissars would doubtless throw up their hands in horror at such an act. But as Britain quietly retreated into itself this week, there were still some individuals continuing to revive the grand traditions of their country by thinking on their feet and readjusting their plans, their schedules or their lives.

Alas, there weren't very many of them. It told us much about the changing characteristics of Britain.

- NZ Herald

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