As I type, the midwestern US faces an ordinary, garden-variety blizzard: about 15 to 20 inches (40 to 50 centimeters) in a thirty-hour span (on top of a certain amount of snow lying already). Happens every year, sometimes twice or more a year, and although they don’t usually postpone US football games, life goes on as usual. Now, a snowfall of 5 feet or so — while not astounding — might be pretty disruptive.
As I type, Glasgow has mostly recovered from its recent ten-day-long snow cataclysm, which involved perhaps a total of 20 cm spread over the ten-day span. Motorists stranded! Trains stalled on the tracks! Housebound desperation! Councils closing public facilities! Someone from the northern US is tempted to mock and fleer at the havoc wrought by so ordinary a snowfall, but that mockery misses the point. It’s not the absolute snowfall that makes for a disruption; it’s snowfall relative to warranted expectations. It wouldn’t make sense for Glasgow, given what Margaret and I have been assured to be its predictably minimal snow accumulations, to keep prepared for a ten-cm snowfall. Ploughs, shovels, mountains of salt and grit — these wouldn’t be used most of the time, and there are urgent public needs that justifiably prevail over precautions for such unlikely events.
(“How unlikely?” you may ask. Margaret and I have spent considerable time looking for statistical records relative to annual snowfall rates in Glasgow and Scotland, but we have mostly found records only of the number of days with “snow lying” (on the ground) and lofty-but-firm assurances that although it occasionally snows in Strathclyde, the snow only stays in the higher elevations apart from a day or two a year.)
I’m glad Glasgow’s pavements are navigable, and I wish my midwestern friends a swift deliverance from such inconvenience as the blizzard entails. Come on over as soon as you can get ploughed out. Meanwhile, it’s back to the usual wintry weather for us: temperatures just above 0°, cold rain, frosts, and short days and long nights. We’ll let you know when the next sign of the apocalypse comes.