The road best not taken (although I did)…

THE snow blows off the fields and dusts the road ahead. This will turn out to be a pointless journey, but for now it seems mildly heroic, that’s if you can be mildly heroic.

You know the sort of heroism that’s just stupidity wearing a big hat. As it happens, I am wearing a woolly hat, a waterproof coat, a heavy donkey-style jacket and gloves. I checked late last night and first thing today, and the official advice from the university was: yes, we are open today.

Here I am then, dressed for action – like Action Man, if Action Man taught journalism part-time. If Action Man was aged 61, bald and juggling two jobs with a bit of freelance journalism on the side.

In the strained white light of nearly morning, the road is rutted with slush and snow. On the high stretch towards Wetherby, the wind blows from Northallerton or the Arctic or somewhere, stirring up fine white clouds. The temperature is minus 4.The pointless journey continues to Harewood, and then to the Leeds ring-road, a route usually best avoided, but today all the sensible people have stayed at home, so it is quiet.

After 75 minutes of driving at 30mph, I arrive at the university. It’s a high spot and a cold one, with bone-chilling winds and snow storms. No one is in the office I share with two full-time lecturers (I’m the squatter). I make a coffee and keep my hat and one of the coats on.

This is when I check the message that says I needn’t have bothered. The official advice has changed to “don’t travel if you don’t need to”. I send a shivery group message to the students, wander to the usual room. It is empty. The students, being more sensible than their lecturer, have heeded the official advice, although one emails to say she’s confused: should she be here or not?

It seems none of us should.

The drive back still smacks of idiot heroism, or heroic idiocy. Snow blows off the fields again and the world is lost to whiteness. On the radio news a woman in Scotland says she was trapped in her car for 17 hours. That’s nothing – I’ve driven at 30pmh to Horsforth and back for no reason at all. And when I get home the wi-fi isn’t working again: these are the problems that Action Man journalism lecturer (part-time) faces every day.

The husband of my wife’s friend was once stuck in the snow around Oxford with his mother, who was in the early stages of dementia. They had to spend two nights in a Travelodge, sharing a bed.

So, yes, my wasted journey pales next to that, even if I was buffeted by that Beast from the East.

Before sitting down to write this blog, I remember that my old newspaper is running a feature on world book day. I was asked to answer five questions. The headline to the feature says: “York luminaries talk about their favourite reads.”

Well, I’ve never been called that before.

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