Wednesday, 11 February 2009

England: a plague of locusts next?

It’s one scourge after another in England at the moment.

Last week, as I reported, it was the snow. The other night, the elements made a valiant effort to blanket us with snow again. However, as is not unusual in England, there was a planning failure: the element with the job of reducing the temperature had taken the evening off, so it was altogether too mild for much to settle. Instead we got rain and therefore floods.

Next the news bulletins were telling us that the rat population has gone up by 50% in the last decade. At a time when the economy has been wrecked by bankers who have taken public money to save their rotten concerns and are using it to pay themselves bonuses, a plague of rats seems peculiarly apposite.

Also, given the state of the nation, it feels strangely like rats joining a sinking ship.

Snow, floods, rats. You might think that someone up there had got in for the poor old English.

It’s hard to understand why. We’ve gone round the world bringing benighted foreigners peace, culture and some wonderful new games. The response? Insurgency, incivility and a stubborn refusal to be defeated on the field. Not exactly a proper sense of gratitude.

And it feels particularly unfair that the heavenly powers now seem to have conspired against us.

Of the three scourges, I particularly resent the flooding. We have a real problem with water in this country. We have enough of the stuff to get really sick of it in the autumn, winter and spring. Then in what we loosely call ‘summer’ we’re told there’s a drought.

It seems that what we get is the wrong type of rain. This is a classically English problem. Back in 1991, there was a magic moment when the rail network was disrupted by the wrong kind of snow.

Picture the engineers at work.

‘Ah,’ says one of them, ‘I’ve got this system here, see, that allows the whole network to deal really well with this kind of snow.’

‘Oh, that is neat,’ chorus the others. ‘Beautifully designed too.’ So they go for his plan.

Then another kind of snow falls. ‘Don’t blame us,’ they all say, ‘we didn’t design the system to cope with that type of snow. We didn’t work on the cold, white kind, you know.’

Maybe that’s why we’ve attracted the wrath of the gods. Not because they don’t see what nice people we are. Just because they have no patience with bumbling amateurs.

No wonder we get beaten at the games we invented.

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