As I look out this morning, the road in black, the field opposite is brown and the garden and lawns are green. And it's a chance to reflect on the changes brought about by the snow over the first two weeks of this year, and present you with a snow-orama.
Snow came to Melksham in two batches - the first and second weeks of the year - and blanketed the roads. "The Spa", where we live, is a cul-de-sac and doesn't get treated in any way, and for much of the time it has been completely white.
Many other suburban roads in Melksham have been "whiteout" too, though as the hours passed from the initial falls, they quickly became passable through the passage of the residents.
The countryside was blanketed - here, just behind Melksham Spa, is a familiar landscape but now decorated in white.
There's a great prettyness added to the scene by the snow; this view of the back of the Spa houses isn't usually one I publish, as it doesn't usually have the "wow" factor of the frontages .. but in this recent weather, an exception has been made.
Well House Manor
- our training centre and hotel - has also been looking very pretty. Situated just off the main road, which is treated / cleared in bad weather, it's both beautiful in the snow AND practically accessible - which is always the conundrum of such bad weather.
School closures have left children unable to attend their normal classes. In days gone by, teachers simply reported to the nearest school and taught there, rather than going to their normal place of work, and it used to provide a refreshing interlude for all concerned and a real educational experience. These days, with heath and safety requiring that all teachers are trained in fire evacuation, with the need for CRB checks on teachers which are specific to their places of work, and with schools frightened of being sued if a child slips on ice, the system has to be kept staider and staler, with the children remaining at home and a caring parent being required in turn to take the day off. But it does result in some family time and fun activities ... and there have been a lot of snowmen around!
This may look like a Swedish road ... can you believe it's taken yesterday on the road from Warminster to Horningsham through Longleat Forest? I had a luncheon meeting at Longleat House, and only the back entrance was clear, leading to a long drive around the outside of the estate.
Returning from Longleat, I paused outside Westbury and took a final snowy picture. By late yesterday afternoon, the snow had largely melted from the roadside and in the valleys, but the hills were still white. The same picture today would, no doubt, be back in the familiar green with only the White Horse remaining snow coloured!
How has the snow effected our business?
It's been almost "business as usual" for our training courses
; we're well set up to cope with eventuallities, and the training itself just ran as if it was green outside rather than white. You may have noticed that I used the word "almost" ... a couple of delegates who had planned to commute daily chose to stay overnight at the most extreme time.
We've had other guests at the hotel
who have booked late and stayed, from quite close by. Dedicated people who provide a vital service, which simply cannot wait because of the weather. And other people who don't want to let people down by cancelling appointments, so have come up to the area a day early. Surprisingly, no hotel room cancellations.
The train service, limited though it is, is still used by a proportion of our guests, and First Great Western cancelled all trains for 50 hours at Melksham - an ignomy they shared with just two other much smaller isolated communities in the South West (I have a letter in my email from their MD, patting himself of the back for continuing to provide a service to MOST places - complacent, me thinks!) and we arranged lift to an equally snow-encrusted Trowbridge where a near-complete train service was running.
We DID have a breakfast meeting that was planned to take place at Well House Manor cancelled at short notice. 19 people had planned to drive on icy roads, predawn, to a regular weekly meeting and it was a sensible decision by the organisers to call it off. It gave us a rare chance to lie in on that Friday morning - Chris on duty from 06:30 rather than 05:30!
Our biggest problem? The phone lines; I suspect that water and ice got into one of BT's junction boxes, and the phone, which has always been a little crackley - became much worse. So much so that it became quite hard to get credit and debit card payments through. But it does mean that we have learned how, in extreme times, to accept payments and phone in for authorisation via mobiles. And when we reported the problem to BT, they had an engineer with us within the hour, who located the problem to a box of tricks they have across the road from us and we've now got a far cleaner line that we even had in the past. So there's a silver lining to every snowcloud, and a "thank you" to BT for their efficiency.
I wouldn't want snow all the time ... but it's certainly helped to spice up the first couple of weeks of this year.
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