The view from Cathy & Julian's window, Monday afternoon - snow still falling.
The plan had been simple. On Sunday my Mum and Dad would drive down to Wales to mind the house and animals while I was away. On Monday morning I'd drive up to my sister Cathy's house in Kent. She and my brother-in-law, Julian, were travelling to Barcelona with me, and as they live about 40 mins from Gatwick airport we'd opted to fly from there. If I arrived on Monday we would be able to make our way there in a leisurely fashion for the flight on Tuesday.
Simple. Except... the weather intervened. Several people rang to suggest I may want to leave on Sunday instead to avoid the heavy snow that was forecast in the South-East on Monday morning. I checked the weather forecast on TV and decided actually, that might be a good idea. The only problem was that I had thought I had a day and a bit to get the house organised for Mum and Dad and get all my packing organised. I had even flirted with the idea of going to my Tai Chi class before leaving for Kent. That now all went out of the window, and a frantic round of getting the house organised, tying up loose ends and packing began. Luckily because my brother Mike was still stranded by car problems at Halfway Up A Hill, he was able to chip in and very valiantly helped with the chores, even hoovering the whole house for me. Even so, it was about 6pm before I was finally ready to leave. The nice thing was that this let me see Mum and Dad before I left. The downside was that the weather front moved in earlier than originally forecast, and a few flakes of snow were already falling by the time I drove off down the road.
The weather wasn't too much of a problem for the first part of the journey, even though some of the snowfall was quite heavy. But almost as soon as I joined the M25 motorway (which encircles London) conditions deteriorated rapidly: the snow was falling faster than the passage of vehicle tyres could clear it. Soon the traffic was crawling along at less than 5 miles an hour, and the only possible thing to do was stay in the tracks worn by the vehicle in front of you. Changing lanes would have meant attempting to cross the mounting snowdrifts between lanes, and frankly I was pretty sure my little car would never manage it. With quite a lot more distance to go yet I started to feel seriously worried, imagining that at any minute someone's tyres would begin spinning uselessly in the thick snow and we would all grind to a halt, ending up spending the night snowed into our cars. Luckily I had a flask of coffee, some food and blankets, yet the prospect was still alarming. I phoned Cathy to find out what conditions were like in Kent, thinking that if they were as bad there I would probably be best to leave the motorway at the next exit (if possible) and hole up in a motel somewhere.
Cathy said that although it was snowing hard, the roads around them were relatively clear so I decided I may as well push on. The going was still painfully slow, but once past the M23 exit things improved enough for a little more speed. Eventually, we were able to travel at about 30-40 miles an hour, which felt much faster than that after the long period of tedious crawling along. It was still snowing heavily, but mercifully at about 1am I arrived at Cathy & Julian's house. There was no way I could get the car up their steep drive, so I called them on my mobile to let them know I'd arrived and they came down with torches to help me with my bags. Phew!
The snow continued to fall, thick and constant, and we spent Monday snuggled up in the living room, drinking coffee and gloomily checking the weather forecast, fully expecting our flight on Tuesday to be cancelled. All that effort for nothing. Or so we thought.