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Post Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:54 pm
stewartwillsher User avatar

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Location: Western Spain
I am fortunate, but partly due to research, a bit of good planning and right decisions, to live after retirement in a temperate climate.
It is true that for many months of the year I can look up at snow on the tops of nearby mountains, but down here there is rarely a frost, and when one occurs it is gone a few hours after dawn.
In twelve years of living here, I think we have had a dusting of snow on three occasions, and only one of those caused inconvenience. [see attachment]
The news web sites I browse, and comments received from my son in Yorkshire, show a fairly harsh winter time recently in much of Britain.

Although living most of my life in the South East - East London then mid Essex, not exactly extreme weather - the winter months were often an unwelcome challenge on the roads.
I am reminded of the journeys to and from work or to collect and return our kids at boarding performing arts college, the other side of London.
It was often the case that my clients, where I had to attend daily, were about fifty miles from home.
Fog in the early months of the year were worst, but snow and ice or flash floods also extended journey times to possibly double or more.
Gritting was minimal and winter tyres not the norm, so it was down to taking extra care and time.
But it seems that the softies today, combined with the health and safety dominance and fear of claims for compensation in event of mishap, has brought everything to a standstill.

Then my mind whizzed back to 1971, when for the end of that year and into 1972, I worked in Stockholm.
I did not drive whilst there, but used public transport, mainly bus, and none were brought to a halt in minus ten degrees and deep snow.
Strangely, most footpaths were cleared each morning and gritted, but the roads left, but ploughed to be passable.
The driving technique of the bus drivers was fascinating as entry and exit to bus stop laybys seemed to be a very well judged degree of slither with an occasional glance at kerbs to assist direction and halting, and then a little wheelspin to get going again.
We, a bunch of techies, rented an apartment in Orminge, a suburb to the East of the city.
There was some attempt at preparation before going to Sweden, mainly comprising layers of effective clothing, like a Parker, cord trousers, sheepskin gloves, thick socks, boots, and even then I had a full beard and, shock horror, shoulder length hair, so not totally naive Brits.
Within walking distance from our flat, in a nearby pine forest, was a large lake.
Well it may have been a lake in summer, but over winter it turned into an ice venue for the locals.
Nearly every form of recreation was catered for and it seemed that the lake had designated areas for each.
It was strange for us to walk without fear across several hundred metres of ice, but then hundreds of folk were there doing it safely, so we did.
One part near the shore and close to an island was busy with fishing, where sharp tools had been brought to bear to chip a hole in the ice which was a couple of feet thick.
Another part was marked out for ice hockey and well organised teams were beating the proverbial out of each other, and a puck.
Some speed skaters had a long thin two way stretch with bollards marking their turning points.
Family skating was popular with all ages gliding back and forth with youngsters showing off.
The most impressive use and covering quite a large area of the centre of the lake was ice yachting.
The speed of these sailing skates was rapid but the oddest thing was the sound, which varied from a sort of swishing to a haunting whistle with occasional flap of the sails.
It looked quite scary as the pilot (if that is the correct word) lay on their back under the boom, and when a gust of wind caught it, the craft might easily seem to take off, but in reality it just tipped and briefly went onto two of the three blades.
Bizarrely, for many of the activities, snow had to be cleared to expose the smooth ice.
In the pine forest, there were tracks of differing widths, again for different uses.
The wider ones seemed to be for motorised fun, being snowmobile type vehicles with tracked rear and ski type front, some with two skis, some with one, so needing to balance like a bike.
And there were bikes, both motorised and pedal powered, all seeming to wear vicious looking spiked tyres.
In contrast, the narrow tracks, going for miles through the trees, were for cross-country skiing.
Some serious folk were in their sporty clothing and getting up quite a speed.
But they seemed to coexist well with families just shuffling along, some pulling a sled for very young kids or even babies, well wrapped against the elements.

In the centre of Stockholm, where I worked, the city is on a few small islands.
The locks either side of the old town (Gamlastan) separate the tidal seaway from the Malaren lakes.
In winter, both side freeze up and tugs are used almost non-stop to keep paths free for various ferries and for ships docking mainly on the shores of the seaway.
The city pavements were mostly cleared of snow daily, and some central roads, but most, as in the suburbs were left to compress.
In some squares, simple ice rinks were made by laying a kerb and plastic sheet and filling with water.
After dark and with some music they were very popular.
One of the largest islands is a huge public resource combining a fair, historical examples of buildings from all over Sweden, old trades, and a park.
Two significant things were happening in Stockholm when I was there, one directly affecting me.
That was the complete refurbishing of the Parliament building (GamlaRikdsaghuset), so the legislature had been relocated to a modern ugly stainless steel building in another part of the city.
The old building, sitting on a small island of its own was being used by many departments, including the Swedish telecomms organisation (Televerket) who I was working for.
The International exchange building in the old town was full to bursting, so many of us were given rooms in the old parliament building; I think I was in the chambers of Min of Ag and Fish, going by the marquetry on the doors.
The amazing thing was that, having been given full passes to the building, all facilities used by the MPs were available to us too, from gym to restaurants, etc.
Once the guards got to recognise us, we were saluted and waved through with a pleasant smile.
The other event in progress was the restoration and preservation of a sailing warship, the Vasa, and a building to house it and provide a controlled environment.
It was a very impressive piece of naval historical archaeology, and I visited and viewed it a few times.
All this, mostly in the dark (black to grey mid morning, back to black mid-afternoon) and well below freezing with plenty of snow, refreshed almost daily.
Not once did I feel restricted, and nor did it seem were the population, on foot or on the roads.

Anecdote: with my pass to gain access to the government buildings, I soon found that a short cut to and from the international exchange on one island, to the old parliament building on another island, was through the central courtyard of the Royal Palace.
The military Royal guard were mostly a scruffy long haired lot but in neat military uniform and quickly understood where I was going, and why, and were mostly a nice bunch of squaddies.
So, one day I'm shuffling through the snow in the Royal Palace, when there in the courtyard was a very interesting motor.
Now, those of you old enough to remember The Saint on TV, Simon Templar, played by Roger Moore. might just recognise a P1800 Volvo if you saw it.
Well before me was an extended version being an estate car.
I took a closer look to see if it had any id, but none, so I assumed it to be a prototype or one-off coach built special.
As it happened, I was sort of right with both, and was just going when I was challenged, in Swedish, by this elderly chap, who did not look like security nor military.
My Swedish was bad, so I showed him my pass, and indicated I was interested in the unusual car.
He switched into perfect English and asked how and why I was there.
I explained and he was happy with that.
He then started to explain the car.
It was built for him by Volvo as a one-off, which they might put into production.
I was impressed, but even more so when he casually remarked with a smile that he was the King so they did it for him.
Incidentally, a similar model of the 1800 did go into production later.
snow.jpg (50.78 KiB) Viewed 201 times
when ducks in a row, will buy an RCZ

Post Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:27 am
Plecodoras User avatar

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So add meeting Royalty to your CV then Stewart and a dusting of snow in Spain. My background is telecoms but I never met a king lol.
Nice story, one day we might be able to find a solution to driving in an inch of snow without it rendering the roads to a standstill. !!

:lol: Laugh and the whole world laughs with you.... or is that at you? :lol:

Post Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:07 am
stewartwillsher User avatar

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Posts: 146
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Location: Western Spain
Plecodoras wrote:
So add meeting Royalty to your CV then Stewart and a dusting of snow in Spain. My background is telecoms but I never met a king lol.
Nice story, one day we might be able to find a solution to driving in an inch of snow without it rendering the roads to a standstill. !!


Cripes!! CV That's a scary thing from the past. :shock:
Fortunately my major clients knew my form so towards the bitter end of grafting they contacted me for work.
I think the last tome of my tech autobiography was fifteen pages condensed (back in the eighties). :roll:
I hit the computing scene in mid sixties and by the end of the sixties was part of a software engineering team, about a decade ahead of Gates, Kildall, et al. (Kildall being in my opinion the greater mind).
If it wasn't for merchant bankers in 1971 pulling the (fiscal) rug from under us, Microsoft would be also rans. :cry:
[incidentally, we coined the collective term for bankers as "a wunch", as in "a wunch of bankers"] :lol:
when ducks in a row, will buy an RCZ

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