Actually driving home for Christmas


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.

13 thoughts on “Actually driving home for Christmas

  1. "When you coming home, son?""I don't know when – I'm stuck in a snowdrift six miles north of Basingstoke"Poignant stuff. Glad you got home safely. word verification – 'sante'. The magic of Christmas.

  2. I was stuck too, I can judge the journey by podcast though. I had last week's Collings & Herrin one for the first hour which should have seen me home and by the time it finished I was only 8 miles from home, I BBC local radio to find out if I should change my route but then managed to listen to the Word podcast and the whole of Marc Riley's show before completing those final 8 miles in about 5 hours. At least I had a Yorkie bar in my bag.

  3. Consider yourself lucky, Mr C – I left Chiswick at 5pm, and eventually crawled in to Reading at just before midnight…!A mere 40 miles in 6.5 hours – and I even stopped near the "Log Hotline" sign for a pee – made me think of you, though I'm sure you don't want to hear that :)I'm working from home today

  4. Driving Home For Xmas is a tremendous piece of work which only improves with age. Seriously. As I get older (and more disenchanted with this time of year) this song reigns me back in and "gets my feet on holy ground".

  5. I was driving back from Northampton (place-I-was-born home) to London (actual home for last 25 years), just to specify. I used to use the M1 but I live in South London and find the M25-M40-A43-A45 best route. Glad I didn't take the M1, as I understand it was worse hit by the snow.

  6. Totally with you on "Driving home for Christmas" – it's a great, touching song.Glad you got home safely and again you're right, weather can turn alarmingly quickly in the UK.Have a great Christmas! I've thoroughly enjoyed your blog and podcast throughout the year. Every success for 2010 perhaps!PS Given that Richard and you rarely talk about anything else, I was interested to know if you've tried the heavily plugged Crabbie's Green Ginger Beer. Next year's pear cider?

  7. This is why I get the train (Eurostar notwithstanding, of course!) – went to East Anglia this weekend which was pretty badly hit, but got there and back with no problems at all. This is the age of the train.Jon

  8. I bet you were "Raging Against The Machine" then eh Andrew ? 😉 Ho Ho Ho, do you see what I did there? (*Get's coat*) Haven't been caught in anything like you were for a while as I am fortunate enough to work from home and everything I need is walking distance so I can enjoy the snow. But I agree, it can be very scary stuff driving in those conditions.Anyway, glad you made it same and sound and just about to dip into both versions of the Perfect Twelve.Happy Christmas.

  9. Glad you got back safely. I'm off to Wales for Christmas and have been reading about lumps of ice falling off the bridges which is slightly worrying.I too have enjoyed reading your blog and listening to you this year, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours 🙂

  10. I think the idea that Britain handles extreme weather so much worse than other countries is nonsense. The difference between them and us is that we seem to think everything should just be able to carry on as usual even though there are tons and tons and tons of frozen water on top of everything. This is where Johnny Foreigner has the advantage over us: he's not a fucking idiot.I've fallen on my arse twice in the last couple of days, and in the same spot each time. I hope that cheers everyone up.

  11. Part of the problem is of course that we maybe get two or three days per year of this, spread around the country so most counties only have extreme conditions everyt five years or so. Menaing it isn't worth them investing in the equioment to deal with "abnormal" conditions as experienced without problem elsewhere in the world.As a resident of Suffolk on holiday in Canada for Christmas we have gone from quite a lot of snow where we don't normally have any to none at all over here where there should be a foot or two by now. Still, lots of pick-ups driving around with snowplows on already.Glad you got home anyway, enjoy broadcasting over the festive season.

  12. @Dara. They have snow for a huge proportion of the year. Therefore it is worth them investing in the right equipment for driving in snow, keeping public transport going etc. For us it isn't. It's the same reason that we don't make our building resistant to earthquakes like they do in San Francisco. I admit earthquakes are more rare than snow, but you see my point.We should count ourselves lucky. The Scandanavians can't phone work and say they can't come in due to snow. We can (whether it's true or not). Anyone who moans about money lost from the economy is just… well, a tit.

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