Monday, 30 November 2015

There’s dumping and dumping - a St. Andrew's Day story

My #Monday Moments slot is generally used for promoting the novels of author friends but today here's a short and true (almost) St. Andrew's Day story for you. 

Yesterday, the 29th November, the latest snow storm hit my area of north east Scotland and it wasn’t well timed at all. Snow was forecast, due to arrive in the Aberdeen area at around 4-5 p.m. I love how the weather forecasters are able to be much more precise these days - don’t you? But just sometimes it’s nice to prove them wrong…she says!

I live 15 miles from the city and don’t quite get Aberdeen weather so at around 2.30 p.m. the afternoon was still a pleasant one with occasional blue skies, though a bit cold at around 5 degrees C. I needed to make space in my garage for my swing seat which has a tendency to do a dance across the front patio area, with or without the all-weather cover on. That seems to be because we don’t quite get the ‘right’ kind of wind up here in Aberdeenshire. To be fair, the packaging does state that the product might need to be tied down in high winds but even with sandbags weighing it down my swing seat takes off like a dandelion clock. It’s new this year, copes very well with heavy rain, but I wanted it under cover before snow got dumped on it.

Before I could store it away for the winter there was some clutter in the garage which needed to be dumped to make the necessary space, items which were past the stage of recycling in any meaningful way. I set off to go to the 'dump' i.e. the local recycling centre that's a short drive away, some 4 miles. Normally, I can load up the car, zip along to the dump and be back within 20 minutes. 

Unfortunately, that wasn't what happened yesterday. I forgot that there were going to be road closures and diversions due to a planned St. Andrew's Day Parade in the town of Inverurie, where the recycling centre is. 

Fortunately for me, having been diverted along residential streets which I'd not normally drive on, I approached the town centre almost directly behind the marching throng who were carrying and impressive amount of saltire flags. Having opened the car window to hear the leading pipe band, I noticed that the temperature had dropped a few degrees, though at just above zero it was nothing to worry about.

You can see what the town square looked like at 3 p.m. (last year?) on this page here: 

The pavements at each side were full of hurrying figures who were out in support of the official marchers, old and young, all heading for Inverurie town square. The buzz of festive spirit was almost palpable around my car, brought to a standstill for a few moments. The shop windows were full of cheer, as were the stewards who were removing the last traffic cones which had been blocking the road till the marching crowd had passed through. It was lovely to see, and plenty to smile about - St. Andrew’s day being properly celebrated. The fact that it was a day early doesn’t matter when the organisers need to catch the crowds and allow those working,or at school, on Monday to participate.

Of course, if St. Andrew’s Day was an official Scottish holiday, as has been the aim of many Scottish people like me for a long time, then a march could take place on the actual day!

So there I was stuck behind the flag waving and cheering column unable to do anything except look and wait. Generally such a sight would be a protest of some sort but this was a happy celebration, for a change. Along with the guilt I felt at not remembering to come, I was glad to participate even just a little. I mad my mind up to go to the dump, offload my rubbish then find a parking space with the intention of joining the fun for a little while.

However, plans can change in a nanosecond as I was about to find out.

Waiting in the inching –forward car queue while the end of the marching line of people moved on, I was annoyed that I’d no camera with me. I didn’t even have my phone camera since I’d rushed out in a flurry, though I'd probably have been arrested if taking photos since I was driving- albeit at a snail's pace. My smiles were wide to see such a happy turnout heading down to the town centre even though the journey was taking me much longer than usual.

Eventually I got to the dump at around 3.30 p.m. where it took me only a couple of minutes to offload my rubbish into the appropriate containers. It was easy to dump the glass bottles and the general rubbish - old mattresses for garden chairs that collapsed long ago and some now unwanted toys from 35 years ago - yes they were that old and had belonged to my daughters but now no longer usable since they don’t meet today’s health and safety requirements… and they were just plain old! My sentimental memories will be exactly that - just memories of my girls playing with the items and not physical plastic items clogging up my cellar.

Flattened cardboard boxes from deliveries of my novels were a different kettle of fish to get rid of! They were flying out of my hands before I could raise them high enough to fling them into the high sided container, the wind having taken a very sudden gusty turn for the worst.

The recycling centre is at a slightly higher elevation than the town centre of Inverurie and high winds can often be a problem. Once I’d wrestled the large folded cardboard pieces into the containers, I took a moment to catch my breath. It was totally impressive to admire (if I can use that word) the amazing view across the valley. Directly above me was a late afternoon blue sky (it being around 3.15 p.m.) but in front of me was a mass of seriously dark, dense grey cloud which roiled towards me at fast rate. I don’t ever want to be in the pathway of a pyroclastic storm from a volcano eruption having seen just how quickly ‘normal’ snow clouds can race towards you.

No more than one minute later, I was around five car lengths into the 'diverted' traffic when the swirling snow wiped the visibility down to about five yards. 

The happy throng must have been so disappointed – but I couldn’t see them. Some people, especially those with small kids who had come out ill equipped for a snow storm were hurrying across the town streets attempting to return home or to their cars.

Yes. I’m a wimp. I abandoned the idea of joining the celebrations since all I had on was a garden fleece. I wasn’t equipped either.

My return journey home was painfully slow since the main diversion to avoid the town square was still in place and the swirling snow had visibility on the dual carriageway down to about 10 yards. Thankfully drivers were crawling along at around 40 miles and hour - a sensible speed for the poor conditions. What had started out as swirling wet snow became a little more powdery and was lying snow, though not deep.
In the north-east of Scotland people do have to accept that the days close to the 30th November can be iffy regarding the contrary weather.

So later today I'll celebrate St. Andrew's Day in my own way... watch this space!


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