Phew. Nearly became a BBC news story last night, driving home for Christmas after a trip up to see the family in Northampton. Left there at 16:18, arrived back in London, after what is usually a two-hour journey, at 20:42, having spent about two of those four and a half hours moving about two miles on a snowbound M40. It really was surreal to be out in the kind of weather that makes the news. What amazed me was how quickly it turned. The M40 is one of those major motorways in this country that doesn’t have lights for long stretches, which always strikes me as phenomenally dangerous on a normal night, after dark, but when the climate changes, as it did yesterday afternoon and Chris Evans on Radio 2 starts to bang inappropriately on about how “magical” the weather is, it’s actually quite terrifying.
Anyway, Chris soon changed his tune, when the traffic reports lengthened and became grave in tone. Now, I know that we’re only talking a little bit of snow and temperatures as low as, ooh, minus one, and the big joke is how quickly this country grinds to a pathetic, oh-woe-is-me halt, but to be in the middle of it, with the motorway reduced from three lanes to two in a matter of about 30 minutes, it’s less amusing. I read this morning that some motorists outside Basingstoke were out all night. There was certainly a point, some 30 miles outside London, where I wondered if the same might happen to us. All I had was two bottles of wine Mum and Dad had given us for Christmas. I wished at one point that they’d given us chocolates. Or perhaps Kendal Mint Cake.
I pity anybody turning off for the A404, as the tailbacks on the sliproad were, as Chris Rea sings, top to toe. Not that that makes any sense. Anyway, God bless Chris Evans for keeping us entertained, and then, when things started to speed up south of the M25 (which had actually been described earlier by the traffic lady as “a car park”), Smooth Radio’s 70s hour at 7pm – hearing Harry Chapin’s Cat’s In The Cradle was a symbolically uplifting moment.
Weather report over.