Their national passion seems to be standing in line patiently for whatever reason, even sometimes no reason at all. Serious criminals may get off with a warning, but queue jumpers quickly become social pariahs. English drivers stop at red lights and actually let pedestrians cross the street safely at designated pedestrian crossing zones. “Keep Calm And Carry On” is more than a memorable World War II slogan. It has become ingrained in the English DNA.
For all that, they suffer from one serious blind spot. They refuse to believe that winter, more particularly snowy winter, usually comes every year. Temperatures drop. Snow falls. Yet the general attitude – especially in official circles – seems to be that this phenomenon is somehow unreasonable and really shouldn’t happen. Therefore, according to them, it doesn’t really happen. But winter does happen – every year. We have been back in London for several years now and every year it has snowed sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. But regardless of the amount the result is complete chaos.
|London traffic snarled in 2 cm of snow|
|Mariella on a snowy day in London|
But you don’t really experience (endure?) a British winter until you have been invited to friend’s old country home that has been designated as architecturally significant. Forewarned is forearmed. The zealots of British architectural heritage have dictated that no amount of cold air sweeping through loose 18th century windows and thin, un-insulated walls should serve as an excuse to install useful things like double-glazing (Heaven forbid!) or modern insulation.
|The Horse Guard braving a winter day|
Planning commissions, in charge of guarding this dubious heritage, ignore completely that these houses are environmental disasters in wasting enormous amounts of heating oil and natural gas in a futile effort to heat them. Some brave soul even tried to put up, gasp, solar panels on a shed behind the main house. These were invisible to all except the planning authorities who quickly ruled that saving energy and limiting carbon emissions were far less important than maintaining the rather dubious architectural heritage of a 19th century barn.
Meanwhile, grab an extra hot water bottle as these two visions of ‘what’s good for us’ battle it out.