Went to Sainsbury's last night, in Truro, and there was no milk. Gaps on the shelves. Went to Tesco at the weekend, in Falmouth, and there was very little of anything. Deliveries not back to normal after two whole days of snow, I suppose*. The usual news sources tell me that we're facing water shortages due to burst pipes and floods due to melting snow. Engineers are "working through the night" to restore power to homes cut off by, er, whatever it is about snow that kills electricity. Engineers work through the night in the way that political leaders reach agreement after all-night talks, treaties are only ever signed at the last moment** and winning athletes couldn't have done it without the support of the crowd. All part of the myth we live by.
Back to those engineers. The snow lasted two days. Two whole gruelling days. Imagine the state of the country if it had lasted through the weekend. [There is absolutely no way I can work in a reference to the film 30 Days of Night (2007) here, is there? No? Good film, anyway. Watch the extras.]
Not to get too apocalyptic on a peaceful morning with the sun now decisively shining, but is this really how the unexpected hits us? I think it's fair to say that country-wide snow really is unexpected in the UK. Every time. The weather here is famously unpredictable, and yes, it was sunny just before the snow, and again on the afternoon after Day Two Of The National Crisis. That was when I sat out in the sunshine on Prince of Wales Pier and thought: nobody in those countries that get snow predictably and handle it sensibly would believe this - that it's all vanished overnight. They can laugh at us, but how would they handle not knowing what the next day will bring?
Yes - genuinely unexpected. And because it's unpredictable and never hangs around, there's no point in spending money on being prepared for it. Which suggests to me that country-wide snow in the UK gives us a good indication of how something truly unpredictable would hit any equivalent*** nation. Not snow, necessarily, but anything unexpected (like, say, a strike of fuel-tanker drivers - another British first). Supermarket shelves empty after two days, engineers losing sleep, talks continuing through the night to find a solution. Given the fragility of our socio-economic whatchamacallit, structures, civilisation, arrangements for keeping everything going, you really don't need zombies to stage an apocalypse these days. Just a glitch in the supply chain.
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is the title of a 1797-1798 etching by Francisco Goya. It's satirical, according to something I read, and apparently a self-portrait; Goya had interesting dreams. The Slow News Day of Reason is the title of a 2018 blog post by William Essex, and it seems to have taken us from a nothing-happening sunny morning to a zombie-free apocalypse in five, now six, paragraphs. Maybe on my next trip to a supermarket I'll get a really big trolley and work myself up to some panic buying.
We're all doomed. Again.
I feel much better now, thank you.
* "Just-in-time (JIT) is an inventory strategy companies employ to increase efficiency and decrease waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process, thereby reducing inventory costs. This method requires producers to forecast demand accurately." So says Investopedia. I remember JIT coming in. Books were written. There were gurus. Nobody mentioned snow.
** Although the fashion these days is to sign them after the last moment - the US government actually does shut down before a budget deal is reached, for example.
*** I nearly put "civilised". Then I thought about "western", but got hung up on W or w. Then I thought: what I'm trying to say is "equivalent". So I put "equivalent".
And finally ... not that I got distracted or anything, but I find that the antique question "Do you want to come up and see my etchings?" has been superseded by the invitation to "watch Netflix, and chill". Okay. I have noticed recently that people talk about what they've seen on Netflix in the way that they used to talk about what they'd seen on TV. But I don't think "Do you want to come up and watch my television?" ever took off. "Come up" implies apartment-dwelling, above the ground floor. Above the art-supplies shop, perhaps. [This is probably my moment to mention Bloodhound Gang's 1999 single Bad Touch. Everybody was watching X Files back then, chilled or not.]
How do they know? Is it the title? No - wait. Before I say anything else: I am in the middle of bingeing on the two-season box set of Afterlife (2005/2006; I mean the one starring Lesley Sharp and Andrew Lincoln), which was axed apparently because Britain's Got Talent was getting more viewers (thanks, Digital Spy). I'm one disc (two episodes) away from the end, and when I finish, I'm thinking of tracking down the first season of Medium (2005/2011, starring Patricia Arquette and Jake Weber), which ran all the way to its natural conclusion without being cancelled.
Thinking of watching Medium for the comparison: the two series started in the same year and tackled roughly the same subject. One's a US drama; the other's British. I like Andrew Lincoln's character's houseboat, but I think I'd want to live in the Medium house - but not the neighbourhood (predictable weather). Perhaps the house could be transferred, flat by flat, prop by prop, to the UK? Like that bridge was taken from London to a US desert, is that right? Anyway - maybe I could get a few paragraphs out of the comparison. Fictional ghosts in the US behave a lot better than their UK counterparts.
Oh, and yeah. I was saying something about unique visitors. Websites and how people somehow instinctively know to stay away from a post about Brexit. Something about that. But more importantly, I have been watching television. Promise. Came home last night, flicked it on to see Michael Douglas say, "I'm the bad guy?" (Falling Down, 1993, Robert Duvall's in it too), flicked over to Newsnight - no, wait. Don't go. Gladiator (2000) was on, and a thing in which a group of remarkably attractive young Americans were tracking down a murderer**. That lasted me through till bedtime. No news at all. Promise. No, really.
Okay - I'll go to the cinema again.
*Of course I know what unique visitors are. Sort of. I'm trying to be funny.
**Medium was on, too. They all looked a little older, so no doubt it was a later series than I remember, but doesn't it strike you as odd, sometimes, this peculiar immortality of TV characters? With their clunky old mobiles and black-and-white complexions? Long time since I first saw Jonathan Harris arguing with Billy Mumy on that distant planet, and even Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) (1969) are still bickering.