It’s not the snow that’s the problem, it’s how we behave

A snow scene in Burslem.

A snow scene in Burslem.

They were selling snow shovels in Asda: ‘The shovels and sledges are selling fast so you’ll have to be quick’, warned the nice announcer lady over the PA system.
It seemed to me everyone in the store had been gripped by some sort of collective hysteria over the first proper snowfall of the winter.
Bear in mind I was in there under duress doing the weekly shop for our family of four plus a dog.
In stark contrast everyone else seemed to be a walking case study for Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel.
A mere dusting of the white stuff had been enough to create panic-buying on a scale not seen since December 23 – with queues of miserable-looking shoppers snaking down the aisles from the check-outs.
Other supermarkets are, of course, available and a colleague of mine Tweeted a picture taken at a local Tesco where every loaf of bread and every bap and bun had vanished from the shelves.
This kind of behaviour is simply unfathomable to me and it would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.
I would guess the average house in North Staffordshire has enough food to see its occupants through any cold spell and yet, for some reason, a few snowflakes and madness sets in.
I mean, heaven forbid we have to make do with what’s in the cupboards and the fridge.
Granted, the media has to take some responsibility for the universal weirdness.
‘Arctic blast’ type headlines dominate newspaper front pages while the TV news shows re-run after re-run of planes being cancelled at Heathrow Airport and some fella’s car stuck in a ditch in Durham.
‘Why are we so bad at coping with the cold weather?’ a number of Sentinel letter writers have asked before blaming the council/Government or Met Office.
The answer is multi-faceted but must have something to do with the fact that we rarely have really bad weather in this country.
When I say ‘bad’ I mean lots of snow or prolonged periods when the temperature drops to minus something-or-other.
When this does happen it seems to catch an awful lot of people by surprise.
Presumably they either haven’t seen a weather forecast for several days or they don’t have a window.
It wouldn’t enter their heads to enjoy the picture postcard scene and make the best of it – not when there’s a chance to moan and forget that they too were young once and that not everyone’s as miserable and curmudgeonly as they are.
I reckon our inability to cope with frost, snow and ice also has a lot to do with the fact that many people are lazy, inconsiderate or downright stupid.
Occasionally all three.
On the internet our obsession with the weather plummeted to new depths locally as council gritting teams came in for a pasting on social media yet again.
There was outrage that a certain street in Meir hadn’t been gritted.
One poster disputed the city council’s assertion that its gritters were even out on the streets.
She commented: “Well all I av seen is cars sliding around and ppl gettin stuck this city is a joke I avnt seen any gritters and I walked to work, waste of space as usual, think the gritters and the grit must all av harry potter invisibility cloaks.”
(In English this means the lady in question didn’t spot any gritters during her extensive survey of her walk-to-work route).
Another poster, a mum-of-three, couldn’t understand why the pavements weren’t gritted too because of the risk the snow posed to her and her sprogs.
I kid you not.
This, of course, all boils down to a ‘woe-is-me’, can’t do anything for ourselves attitude which I find flabbergasting.
I refuse to believe people were so mollycoddled and useless 30 or 40 years ago when I was growing up.
Nowadays it seems some people aren’t happy unless every inch of the route between their front door and their local shop/pub/school/place of work (insert as appropriate) has been treated with rock salt and personally tested by their ward councillor (whom seven out of 10 couldn’t be bothered to vote for).
To be honest, if the main roads are kept clear (and they usually are) then I’m happy.
Having to take my time as I drive or walk along the side streets is no great inconvenience and using those little yellow bins to sprinkle a bit of grit on my drive and that of my elderly neighbour is no real hardship to me.
Yes, we’ve definitely gone soft in recent years: Take schools, for example.
Holden Lane High School only closed once in the winter during my five years there between 1983 and 1988 and that was because of a problem with the boiler.
Nowadays some schools close when there’s even a threat of ‘bad’ weather or text working parents at lunchtime to tell them to come and collect their children as soon as possible because there’s four centimetres of snow on the playground.
Why? The pupils are already in the school so what does it matter what time they leave?
‘Health and safety’ posted a teacher friend of mine on Facebook before adding a smiley face with a wink and presumably heading off to the shed to dig out his sledge.
Nice work if you can get it.
I love winter: A sharp frost in the morning and a fresh blanket of snow is a beautiful sight to behold.
What’s more, I promise to love it even when I’m old and grey and all I can do is stare out at the children making snowmen and throwing snow balls. In fact, I’ll be envious.
You see, it’s not the cold weather that’s unbearable – it’s the way most of us react when we get some.


We must see the light about the whole city’s prosperity

I spent half an hour on the telephone the other day to a lovely bloke from Longton.
He was bemoaning the fact that The Sentinel hadn’t published a special supplement to publicise the switch-on of Longton’s Christmas lights – similar to the one we produced for Hanley.
Inevitably, it turned into a conversation about why one town in Stoke-on-Trent seems to receive all the money and support while the other five struggle or stagnate.
I had some sympathy for the passionate Longtonian’s plight but at the same time I did my best to make him see the light.
Stoke-on-Trent has to have a city centre and there’s no getting away from the fact that Hanley is it.
That being the case it is only natural, I told him, to expect that much of the money, most of the council’s endeavour and a lot of the big public events are focused on the town that has for so long been the city’s heart.
I tell everyone I meet how proud I am of the Mother Town.
But as much as I want Burslem and all the other towns to thrive, I know that, ultimately, a successful Hanley is key to the future prosperity of the city as a whole.
Hanley has the city’s main museum, our biggest library, the best theatre and the widest variety of shops and restaurants anywhere in North Staffordshire.
Thus it will always be the biggest draw for shoppers and tourists alike.
This is why I’m not pressing the panic button just yet, like some seem to be, over the opening of the behemoth that is the new Tesco superstore at the bottom of Piccadilly.
There is real concern in some quarters, particularly among retailers, that this one-stop shop will suck the life out of the city centre – killing off trade and forcing other stores to close.
They simply can’t understand why this development was given the green light.
After all, an application to increase the size of the Tesco store in Trent Vale was turned down on the grounds that it could be detrimental to trade in Newcastle.
Yet just a few miles up the road a gigantic superstore has been allowed to open just half a mile from The Potteries Shopping Centre.
I suspect the reason for this contradiction is twofold.
Firstly, Hanley is bigger, experiences greater footfall and has many more shops and attractions than Newcastle.
This all means it is better equipped to cope with the advent of another offer to consumers.
Secondly, giving the go-ahead for this mammoth store certainly solved a huge headache for the city council’s planning officers in that it facilitated the completion of the ring road.
One area of Hanley now looks a lot more modern, clean and attractive than it did 12 months ago as a result of the Tesco development and the accompanying new infrastructure.
It’s certainly a damn site more appealing than derelict buildings and wasteland.
While I don’t believe the third largest retailer in the world to be Hanley’s saviour neither do I consider Tesco to be the retail equivalent of the Devil incarnate.
When I visit Hanley I may indeed do some grocery shopping at Tesco.
Then again, I may call in at Sainsbury’s, just to be awkward.
What I do know is that I’ll still want to nip in Costa for a cappuccino (other coffee houses are available), I’ll always have a mooch around Forbidden Planet on Stafford Street, I’ll certainly have a butcher’s at the clothes in the Potteries Shopping Centre and I’ll always visit my mum on the oatcake stall in the market.
Free parking or not, Tesco does not spell the end of Hanley as a retail centre.
Not if the powers-that-be continue to invest time and money into the city centre.
Not if we can finally get a new bus station built and put the finishing touches to our Cultural Quarter.
Not if we make the most of the fabulous opportunity afforded us by the acquisition of the Staffordshire Hoard.
Let’s not forget that Hanley has had a Tesco for years.
In my opinion, the new superstore is a welcome addition to the city centre’s retail stable and we should stop mithering and keep supporting all the traders in Hanley.
After all, I’ve heard that ‘every little helps…’