Monday, February 12, 2007

At last, some real snow!

At last, some real snow! We haven’t had a decent snowfall ever since we moved here to mid-Wales seventeen years ago. Before that we had a couple of real winters in the Shropshire Hills; when we (just three of us in those days) were living in a tiny caravan while I renovated our derelict farmhouse near Bishops Castle it so cold one winter that the gas froze, and snow drifts a couple of foot deep were expected.

A seventeen year gap tends to make one a bit complacent so unfortunately this lot caught us somewhat unprepared, leaving us running out of spuds, dog food and milk. Up until last year this would have been no problem at all because we would just have enjoyed the walk through the winter wonderland lanes down to the village shop and Post Office two miles away. But now, like so many other rural lifelines, it’s been shut. The nearest shop is now five miles away. Not usually a problem to us with three cars and four drivers in the family, not to mention two deep freezes (one still with plenty of joints of last year’s cade lambs in it) but a nightmare to the elderly and the really poor.

The whole family (bar the eldest, who’s away at uni) sets to try to clear the bad points on the lane at least enough to get a car out to get shopping and to bring it back within walking distance. But the snow is coming down too hard and even the grit and salt we spread from the heaps left by the council at strategic points doesn’t make any impression. After a while the dogs – who started the working walk in a state of high excitement, rolling in and biting the snow - start to limp, holding alternate feet off the ground to keep them away from the cold.

I am also forced to miss a branch meeting in Blackburn where I was due to speak. I hate letting people down but have no choice at all, there are several impassable hills on the first couple of miles of the journey and a hard frost is forecast that night so even if I got past them to go there I most definitely wouldn’t get back up the long slow hill at the end of the evening. Still, I hear later that it goes well without me and I’ll try to fit in their next meeting in March instead.

So here in our snowbound hills we have several days going nowhere except on foot. I make use of some of the time working on the overall layout plan of the soon-to-be-revamped website. Several long conference calls with Steve Blake and Mark Collett in particular. We use Skype, which considering it is free, easy to download and install, and totally free to use (as long as one is on broadband), is a wonderful system.

On Friday morning comes the news of our splendid by-election result in Bede Ward, Bedworth. This very ordinary English town is between Nuneaton and Coventry, but while they are both heavily ‘enriched’, Bedworth has so far largely escaped such a fate. According to the liberal theories explaining BNP successes in places like Burnley, Barking and Dewsbury, we shouldn’t have a prayer in Bedworth.

Plus, several of the other parties put in serious campaigns. The Tories in particular started the by-election believing that they could win it, and even had MPs out canvassing. In the last ten days the Labour party raised their game too, and the LibDems and far left got up to all sorts of dirty tricks. UKIP paid for a big advert in the local paper and put out one leaflet to every house (a good campaign by the pathetic standards established by their leaders, who don’t seem to care about repeatedly sending their unfortunate foot soldiers to repeated crushing defeats and humiliation) and the English Dems do a lot more.

This bunch are hopelessly naïve civic nationalists, mainly disaffected Tories with the one track approach of believing that establishing an English parliament is more important than preserving the English people. The BNP, of course, also believes that establishing an English parliament to balance those in Scotland, Wales and Ulster is the way to end the wranglings and injustice caused by Blair’s half-baked devolution operation. But we can also see very clearly that it would only have a good effect as part of a huge programme of radical changes in other fields.

The English Democrats would be happy to be swallowed up completely by the federal European monster if it would give them a little parish council ‘parliament’. They would be happy to see radicalised Islam growing ever stronger provided the Islamic Party sent its representatives to push for Sharia law through their ‘English’ parliament. They would be happy to see the indigenous English become a minority in our own land as long as the new majority called themselves ‘English’ and flew St. George’s Cross over a latter-day Tower of Babel – provided its official title was ‘English Parliament’.

But despite the very vigorous efforts of all these different parties we wipe the floor with them all except Labour, with our hard-working candidate Alwyn Deacon getting precisely as many votes as all the other opposition candidates combined. It is a crushing blow to the Tories who really expected to win, the humiliation for the LibDems will pile behind-the-scenes pressure on Ming Campbell to go, the Eng Dems yet again have the experience of wasting large amounts of effort and money to get absolutely nowhere, and UKIP – with just eight (8) votes must be wondering whether Nigel Farage’s botched attempt to change their name to the ‘Independence Party’ wouldn’t be electorally better turned into a merger with the Monster Raving Loonies. Rare indeed is the party that gets fewer votes than the ten local signatories it needs even to be allowed to stand. It appears that the BBC attempt to turn Mr. Farage into a harmless safety valve for the rumbling discontent of overtaxed, contemptuously ignored Middle England isn’t going according to plan.

Late on Friday night I give in to the kids’ demands that I go sledging with them (to be honest, it doesn’t take much persuasion!) Wrapped up and carrying sheets of builders’ plastic (left over from when Richard and I replaced the hideous old concrete kitchen floor with slate slabs last year) we head over the field to the best slope. Within a few slides the amount of snow means that it’s the fastest we’ve ever had it. The downside of this becomes apparent when Richard and I – being the two heaviest – shoot right down to the bottom and take to the air, landing with bone-jarring thuds on the lane below. The snow cushions the fall to an extent, but thereafter we both ensure that we bale out of the icy run before it’s too late.

As Saturday evening arrives a final flurry of big snowflakes is abruptly replaced by damp fog. Then it rains overnight and by Sunday morning the sun is out. The fields are still white but all the snow has already gone from the branches of the trees and hedges. The lane is still all ice and slush but it should be possible to get out shortly. Which is just as well because I’m supposed to be in Yorkshire on party business by 2 p.m.

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