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Not even zero degrees - The Titfield Thunderbolt — LiveJournal
Heisenberg might have stayed here
Not even zero degrees
The car thermometer showed (+)1°C all the way home last night.

I left Oxford at about 5:30pm as usual; I knew there was a forecast of "light sleet" for that time so it didn't particularly bother me that there was light sleet as I made my way along the A4074, though once beyone Nuneham Courtenay I did alternate between thinking "I'm trying to keep my distance, but why won't the car in front go at more than 30mph" and "why don't my brakes seem to be working".

At Wallingford it was decision time for which way to go. In the morning I'd taken the route through Reading and Caversham, and it had been mostly clear but with a couple of icky bits around Cane End. I decided I'd go for the A329 instead, and it started off fairly clear. However, sometime between 6 and 6:30pm we all slowed, eventually coming to a standstill on the fringes of Streatley. ISIHAC came and went, and I had hardly moved. We crawled a little; someone passing on the other side told us there was ice near Basildon. I had to warn the guy behind me to keep his distance, it didn't seem to have crossed his mind that I might slide back into him (at one stage I did slide backwards when I took my foot off the brake pedal, even with the handbrake apparently fully applied).

We continued to crawl for some time, eventually getting beyond the traffic lights at the crossroads. I'd tried to call Mrs Q at home or on his mobiles several times but most of the time, unsurprisingly, the network was busy, and on the few times I got a connection, there was no answer. Sometime after 8pm, I called uitlander, who provided welcome relief (thank you) even though there was really nothing she could do beyond looking at traffic news on Teh Interweb and concluding "you're f***ed".

I gave up on the RDS announcements and finally found BBC Radio Berkshire on the car radio. The music was dire but there was very little of it, as mostly they were just covering transport stories. It took till about 10:45pm to get to the problematic hill. I had to push the car in front of me up the hill at Basildon; likewise I required a push in turn. Thank you to the strangers who helped me out. Given what I've heard about the state of things in Caversham, I think I made the right call.

From there it was relatively straightforward until Theale, where I made the mistake of sticking to the major roads. TBH they weren't in any better condition than the minor ones, and I could probably have gone over the canal bridge and back (the long way round, avoiding Hose Hill) to Burghfield. However, I decided to get onto the A4 instead, where I crawled into Reading for another hour and then some. Once I turned off the A4 it was straightforward again. Unlike all the other cars in the convoy to Burghfield, I decided to go for Burghfield Hill rather than the more gentle Clay Hill Road. I concluded that at this stage it didn't matter too much if I couldn't make it - but that I definitely wouldn't make it down and up again on the road across our estate. In the event, Burghfield Hill was an easy and steady climb. It was eerie seeing all the overhead wires so picked out in the snow, and there were many tree branches weighed down somewhat precariously. I crawled along the estate roads and slithered onto the driveway - more or less - at about 1.20am this morning. There were six inches of snow - I measured them.

There was no sign at all of any grit on *any* of the roads. I did see a snowplough in the vicinity of Theale around 11:30pm.

Not surprisingly I haven't had a brilliant night's sleep, but at least Mrs Q rang in this morning to say he's been staying at Malmaison in Reading. He doesn't have to check out until mid-day, and as there's a very restricted bus service running I suggested he stay put for an hour or two. It appears that buses are running along the A4, which would get him half way home.

ETA: Mrs Q is now home.

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10 comments or Leave a comment
lamentables From: lamentables Date: December 22nd, 2009 08:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Urk. Stressful and frustrating.

At the risk of sounding like an old person, I'm sure the country was better at winter weather when I was kid.
qatsi From: qatsi Date: December 22nd, 2009 09:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, that would have been when we didn't have "just not in time" gritting operations. More seriously, though, I suppose there weren't so many cars and there was less commuting so far on a daily basis either. There were local shops. People "made do". etc. etc.
altariel From: altariel Date: December 22nd, 2009 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Horrible. Very glad you've made contact with Mrs Q.
qatsi From: qatsi Date: December 22nd, 2009 09:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks :)
uitlander From: uitlander Date: December 22nd, 2009 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm pleased you finally got home. Your 'down and safe' txt was timestamped 1.30 am. I'm sure Mr Q will have a relaxing breakfast and then stroll in after lunch, it sounds like he got the better half of the deal.
qatsi From: qatsi Date: December 22nd, 2009 09:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I took a few minutes before I sent that. Didn't want to wake you but thought I'd better let you know. Apparently there are trees or branches on the Burghfield Road now. He's thinking of catching the train to Mortimer and walking back from there.
uitlander From: uitlander Date: December 22nd, 2009 09:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I wouldn't attempt walking back from Mortimer in these conditions. Like I said last night, it's still too cold to be safe and it would take 2-3 hours on a clear day. On a day like today I'd expect it to take far longer than that.
strange_complex From: strange_complex Date: December 22nd, 2009 12:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh dear, what a nightmare! I trust you are able to stay home today?
qatsi From: qatsi Date: December 22nd, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Frankly, I'm not able to do anything else at the moment, but I am working from home, at least intermittently. I've cleared a way into the garage for the car but it wouldn't go in the right direction earlier, I am going to give it another go this afternoon, before it gets dark. Hopefully the sunshine will have thawed enough ice by then.

Tomorrow, however, is my day of travel (by train) up to the Lakes, which could be interesting. As far as I can tell it should be fine ... if I can get to the station.
strange_complex From: strange_complex Date: December 22nd, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I'm supposed to be travelling by train to Brum tomorrow, and am a bit nervous about it, especially since it has just started snowing again here. Will just have to allow plenty of time and be philosophical about it if there are delays, I think.
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