I’ve been trying to get home for days. But the ferries to our little island off the coast of Scotland haven’t stood a chance against Storm Ciara and her even pissier (is SO a word!) big brother Dennis. Yesterday there was a rumor that one (1!) ferry would go, so I headed to the train station to try to make my way out to Ardrossan Harbour. The ticket clerk looked at me like I’d just requested a ticket to Mars. At least, that’s what I guessed, because even after all this time in Scotland, I’m not completely clear about the conversation we had.
CLERK: Hae yez looked ootwith? Thaur ur nae boats gonnae an nae trains e’en if thaur us. An e’en did ye waur tae gie thaur, eh’d advise ye nae tae gie oan onie boat the-day.
ME: Did you say no trains or no boats?
That night, still in Glasgow, I watched videos posted by my island neighbors showing waves swamping the roads, the ferry pitching wildly as it attempted to dock, and even the sight most guaranteed to make strong Scots weep—flooded golf courses.
[Ship: ‘MV Caledonian Isles’ at Ardrossan harbour West coast of Scotland by William Campbell via the BBC. The journey to Arran was a “wee bit choppy”. Hmmm… Somehow I wasn’t feeling quite so bad about not making it onto the ferry.]
It was, the weather guys told us (as they posted surprisingly graphic images of the storm’s progress) the worst storm to hit the UK since… well, Storm Ciara last week.I wasn’t surprised. But while I’m still trying to get back home, here’s a blast from the past—
Weather and politics. It’s all local.
When I first moved to Chicago, I was too young to appreciate The First Law of Local Weather: no matter where you move, the natives have never seen this kind of weather before. Rain amazed Californians, blizzards amazed Chicagoans, hurricanes amazed Virginians, and tornadoes especially amazed central ‘Tornado Alley’ Illinois. Russians probably told invading Germans they never have such cold winters. I’ll bet you could go to Mars and little green creatures would assure you, “It’s a very unusual year. Normally, we have MUCH more oxygen here…”
An eight-year stint in Chicago still didn’t prepare me for real weather because winter is not scheduled in that city. Blizzards come as a complete surprise to Chicago officials every year. They would announce after the first snow of the season that municipal supplies of salt and sand were exhausted because of unusually severe weather, the like of which hadn’t been seen since the previous winter.
I know I’m not the only one who remembers the Lincoln Park Pirates. One January the City of Chicago was so shocked at the unusual occurrence of winter, their outsourced towing company hauled hundreds of cars (including mine) to a lakeside park and then forgot where they put them. The snow-encrusted forms were soon obliterated by the snow removal crews who were also using that park as a dumping ground. Months went by before melting snows revealed missing vehicles.
[For Chicago fun, anyone remember Steve Goodman’s Lincoln Park Pirates? Good times.]
Although central Illinois has strict zoning restrictions prohibiting any actual scenery, it does provide quite a bit of entertainment in the form of weather. My theory is that the powerful Weather Team Forecasters (WTF) demanded at least two tornado sightings a month in summers, plus premium pay for blizzards. That first summer we were in Illinois, every time we got into the car the WTF would respond with a weather situation. As we scanned a cloudless sky, they assured us that conditions were ripe for the formation of a tornado, and pleaded with us to seek shelter. Although we couldn’t help noticing that our neighbors would be out washing their cars and grilling brats, we chalked it up to the devil-may-care attitude for which Midwesterners are famous.
[NOTE to my Midwest sister before she gets on my case: No, I am NOT accusing anyone in the Midwest of being in any way connected with the devil/ Satan/ Prince of Darkness/ the Republican Party. It’s called irony or sarcasm or something like that.]
Every once in a while, if the WTF got really lucky, actual weather would occur.
METEOROLOGIST: “There are big clouds forming… getting larger… pulsating… closer and… yes… we have reports of a funnel… Oooh, yes… It’s SO big, and it’s (pant, pant) getting ready to… touch down (gasp)… almost there… NOW… right now… YES! YES! YES!”
Afterward, the weather bureau had a cigarette and we lit more candles down in the basement.
Some years ago we moved to England. Our first winter there, our neighbors were gobsmacked by their conviction that was the wettest, coldest winter on record. Now we live in Scotland, and several of the other dog owners (and really, who else would even be at the park in a snowstorm?) just told me this is supposed to be our coldest year ever. Since last year, at least…
But this time I’m ready to Brave the Beast. I’ve stocked up on Arran whisky, tonic, limes, and my brand new hot-off-the-stills first run release bottle of Arran Gin. Bring it!