Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Thank Goodness For Shovels

Thank goodness for shovels. I've had mine by my side most hours of the day, short of putting it in my bed. It sits directly behind the driver's seat in my car. I dug out parking spaces in Newcastle three times today. I got some strange looks from passers by when I left the car in the middle of the road and leapt out with my shovel. I think they thought they were about to be assaulted by a madman.

The gritters in the city had done a good job. I passed armies of day-glo jacketed contractors clearing the pavements. Many snowploughs, small diggers and drain clearers. It was all hands on deck. Even the NE1 Street Rangers (according to the Newcastle City Council website) fulfilled their remit as a "rapid response 'clean team'", walking the streets with snow shovels. Their secondary functions of "launching a three pronged attack on anti-social behaviour, improving the business environment and providing a 'meet and greet' for anyone coming to our city centre..."

"Best job they've ever done," I overheard one man say to his friend as they stood outside a pub having a fag.

"Aye," replied the other exhaling, "but they've not deined to clear outside our pub's doorstep. Never mind. Fancy a pint?"

Yet it was a surprisingly pleasant day to drive around Newcastle. There was very little traffic. Plenty of parking spaces and very few parking wardens. The ones I did see were keener looking in shop windows and I suspect the cold had numbed their fingers and made ticket issuing a forlorn hope - so they had given up.

I was only here because the weather made it impossible to drive over the hill to the bus depot. I had driven my wife to a meeting. And if I had made it, there were no services to drive. The schools were shut, the other routes were impassable and the bosses spent most of the day trying to rescue one bus which was stuck on a steep incline.

They were exhausted. Their amazing hard work had kept buses moving, be it sluggishly all day. All the cancelled services were cancelled by other parties. The Vallium Run was ahopeless, but nonetheless they managed to squeeze two hours service out of it before it became too dangerous.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

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