Monday, January 11, 2010

Clueless Brits


I am still fascinated by the lack of knowledge and understanding of all things wintry and cold among some Brits.

First I have to defend and excuse people in the UK for not being winter-wise, since most winters there are relatively mild and free of snow. However they do happen, and most adults ought to have experienced sub-zero temperatures and snow in their lives.

It has to be said that the authorities are much better prepared these days. There are snow ploughs, gritting lorries etc., but perhaps not enough of them. Neither is there any "winter tyre culture", most people use the same low-profile, shallow-groove tyres all year. Also the rubber on those tyres are less effective below 7degrees C even on a dry surface.

On the UK news you can see desperate drivers trying to get out of some snow, just letting the wheels spin wildly, slowly packing the snow harder and harder. No technique to ease their way out of it.

You also see news reporters walking down a snow-covered pavement, not even thick enough to make the shoes disappear, talking about "treacherous conditions". Rather pathetic.

And people don't even put gloves and hats on. No wonder they feel cold.

Then of course we have the old housing stock, which does not seem to be fit for purpose in the winter; single window panes, those draughty  sash windows, lack of insulation and central heating. The list could be made much longer.

And to economise, some people, especially old and fragile people, are in the habit of turning off the heating in some rooms, not realising that that is not very cost-efficient.

Watching the BBC Breakfast show this morning, another striking example of lack of understanding of basic principles made my jaw drop.

Sian Williams (the female presenter), who normally gives a very sharp and intelligent impression, questioned the idea of placing radiators below the window, since "all the heat just disappears straight out through the window" as she put it. I nearly sent a text message to explain, but several others got there before me.

A few minutes later she quoted one of them, explaining how the rising heat creates a protective wall preventing the cold coming in from the outside. "I suppose we have to trust him, he's got a PhD" she added.

So there is still hope.


oreneta said...

I feel the same way...and then I remember the time I was in the Caribbean and had to be reminded not to stand under a coconut palm on a windy day.

Ho hum.

That man must have thought I was outstandingly stupid. Though I do have to agree with him on that one.

Peter H said...

As a keen viewer of the tv show Grand Designs I was actually pondering how well some of their high energy efficiency house designs went in these much cooler conditions, in comparison to the usually pretty crappy energy efficiency of most UK houses. Your observations on Brits are pretty pertinent,and it seems they have a long way to go in comparison to dealing with cold conditions as is the norm in Nordic regions. Appropriate dress is but one issue!

Rositta said...

I've been watching some of the news reports coming out of Britain and Germany and chuckling too. My cousin just sent me some pictures from the Isle of Ruegen and they are pretty much snowed in, very pretty. You'd be surprised how many people in Toronto drive without snow tires and then wonder when they can't get through deep snow or stop on a dime. Since I learned to drive in Montreal during one of the worst winters on record (124 inches of snow) I feel kind of superior to all and sundry, LOL...ciao

swenglishexpat said...

Oreneta - I have just managed to stop laughing now at your comparison! Wonderfully funny. Makes you think. Perhaps I was a bit hard on "some Brits". ;-)

Peter H - We always watch Grand Designs! Some fantastic ideas. I love the part when they revisit to find out how it worked over a longer period of time.

Rositta - No snow tyres in Toronto? That was a surprise. What does the law say? Is it not mandatory?

Veronica said...

I just hate it when he beats me with a comment along the same lines I was thinking ... ah well!
ps I think I saw the same footage you did of tyres spinning - the big Range Rover was going nowhere.

Rositta said...

Snow tires are mandatory in the Province of Quebec but not in Ontario. There is always talk of making it so. A good part of the problem is the storage of the other tires when not in use. If my garage didn't store mine for me I'd have a problem too. I wouldn't drive a winter here without them though for sure...ciao

swenglishexpat said...

Veronica - Never mind, and I just saw in the papers here that Melbourne had its hottest night (37C) in 100 years. Talk about extremes!

Rositta - Ours are stored at a garage, but in the past (in Sweden) I actually stored four tyres indoors in my flat in a big wooden chest from 1831. How about that?!

CanadianSwiss said...

I almost peed myself reading this! Thanks for bringing it up! Being a Canadian myself, I can totally relate to what you're putting down here. Switzerland - with exception of the mountain areas - is quite similar. Who'd hav' thunk?! :-)

To Rositta's comment: Many Canadians use all season tyres. Go figure!

HA!!! My word verif is : Mogrip... Sounds like a tyre profile, no?

Protege said...

Yes, it is like that with countries that rarely experience snow, everything comes to a halt. I remember in NC when the ground was just slightly white, schools would close and everyone would swarm the grocery stores and load up on water and bread. I have no idea why those two items.;)

swenglishexpat said...

Protege - Bread and water? Sounds like they were preparing for jail! ;-)

Veronica said...

Well that's Melbourne - tomorrow 13 - 24 is forcast.
here it is just WET 110mm over night!
but the sleepin' is easy!

Lynda said...

I was having a mutter about this while watching the BBC news with Mr Dear Husband. He laughed and said that I should be careful, nobody is going to take me seriously -- I grew up in Sydney! The Cheek... but I suppose it makes me more cautious... I have winter tyres on my car, and yesterday my little one was the queen of her class because I sent her to school with a thermos of warm lemon tea.

I am loving this weather - so much happier than the all consuming heat of Egypt.

swenglishexpat said...

Lynda - What a good mother and classy lady you are, lemon tea! I saaay! At least in a cold climate you can dress for it, but when it gets too hot, you can do nothing.