Tuesday, 3 January 2012

In the Teeth of a Storm

A few weeks ago Scotland experienced a day of very strong gales which caused severe disruption and structural damage.  With immense good humour, we called the gales "Hurricane Bawbag" and posted very funny video footage of an escaped trampoline and of flying Greggs' bags.  It was the country's way of taking the "Smeato" approach to weather; a kind of "Here's tae us! Wha's like us? Damn few, an' they're a' deid!" attitude, applied to the wind and rain.

Today, the younger folk who thought there had never been a wind like that before;  who didn't remember the death toll of the 1968 hurricane, who thought only snow could stop us in our tracks, have discovered that December was just the practice run!

It is a frightening thing to be woken by the ever-louder howling of the wind; to hear the roof creak and groan and bounce as though ready to fly away; to hear thumps and crashes in the darkness as bins capsize and gates bang; to scan mentally for lantern torch, candles, matches and think how cold it will be if the heating goes off.

 The 76mph breezes of December are replaced by gusts of up to 100mph;  the ever-open Kingston Bridge closes in both directions as do the Forth, Tay, Erskine, Skye. Trees crash through cars; walls blow out.  On Facebook the word 'apocalyptic' surfaces through the storm.

BBC Radio Scotland gives over its daily phone-in programme to the weather situation and folk call in with tales of terrifying abandoned car journeys, closed roads, cancelled trains and power outages.  There is no humour this time, not yet.  In many of these voices there is real fear.

And then comes the call from a priest from Bridgeton who tells the programme's host that he has been 'praying hard' since 6.00 a.m. because he is in an old house and this feels like the end of the world!  At first it sounds like a hoax call, but perhaps not?  Then he announces that "as Christians, we believe" that this could be a sign of "God's anger"!  And he seems to be serious; the host shuffles him quickly off the line.

There are the usual criticisms of the government and the met office forecast;  who is to blame?  We seem to believe that someone could have prevented this.  Even with my snow phobia and resultant ongoing animosity towards the met. office, I can see that they were caught out by the sudden escalation in the ferocity of the wind. Most callers to the show also accept that.

As we wait for the winds to die down, I am left with the unsettling sensation that weather displays such as this carry a salutary message.  I may consider the priest ridiculous and abhor his citing of 'God's anger' ; I may remain sceptical of the excesses of the environmentalists' direst warnings.  But a primal fear is engendered by our inability to carry on with our hi-tech, urban, commuting, materialist lives in the face of a storm.  We can build walls and bridges and even storm barriers, but the wind will win.  We can sit on our beach mat and tweet across continents, but the tides will come and go.  We can travel miles to our 'plum' job everyday, but blizzard or flash flood will stop us.

We are very small.  We really do need to reflect on that. On a day like this, we don't even need Professor Cox to remind us of our place.

1 comment:

  1. You're so right. We really are pretty helpless in the face of such weather conditions.
    I'm enjoying reading your blog and it now looks like Blogger had enabled me to comment, which is even better!