Dear Reader: Nearly crashing in snow + great British malaise

Treacherously snowy roads during the recent wintry weather.
Treacherously snowy roads during the recent wintry weather.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

There’s always an air of panic when the first flakes of snow hit the ground.

Will it lie? Will it make driving difficult?

Will it make even the mere act of walking dangerous?

The natural result is to take a cautious approach but even good ideas can go too far.

Anyone who tried to get to work last Thursday through the snow and ice and melting lumps of frozen slush will know exactly what I mean.

Wherever you turned, there were long, static queues on every road in and out of the centre of Harrogate.

Not to put too fine a point on it, it was utter car-nage.

Actually, the roads weren’t in that bad a condition if you were a confident driver.

At one point in my desperate effort to find some give in the road system, I twisted and turned my way onto a back road to Beckwithshaw only to find myself in another almost stationary line of cars.

And why had so many drivers slowed to a trickle at this spot?

A puddle. A puddle not big enough to drown a frog.

I was tempted to curse the rest of my fellow drivers for their ridiculous lack of courage.

Later that day, while turning into Beckwith Head Road a little bit too quickly, my car skidded and narrowly missed crashing into a road sign.

Worse than Spaghetti Junction!

The British are known the world over for our capacity for laughing at ourselves.

But that doesn’t mean that we understand our own nature or history as much as we like to think.

Who now remembers that in the doldrum years before the 1960s, the country had the reputation far and wide for being bureaucratic and slow-moving?

So much so, in fact, that many a British movie made in black and white in the immediate post-war years portrayed anyone in authority as a stickler for the rules - in a comically ineffectual way.

I’ve dredged up this forgotten historical nugget after spotting a sign last week outside Harrogate Hospital banning parking, temporarily, while “modular buildings” are brought in for what seems to be a new extension.

Modular buildings?

Now there’s a possible solution to Harrogate’s house building problems, the UK’s as a whole, perhaps?

But no. For the same reason that Housing Associations can no longer really provide the solution to the shortage of affordable housing, there is unlikely to be a rash of new modular housing everywhere.

The system. It’s the system which hampers the NHS, which explains the collapse of Carillion plc and the problems of PFI and public-private partnerships.

Once upon a time comedians laughed at the complicated motorway interchange on the M6 motorway in Birmingham, labelling it “spaghetti junction.”

I’m no cynic who thinks there’s no one out there trying to do good these days.

But how is progress possible when most things seem stuck in a morass of accountability, outsourcing, targets and transparency?