The weekend was a washout. It started raining on Thursday and didn't end. Cornwall was flooded. The trains between Bristol and Exeter stopped running. There were even puddles in Hyde Park. It was unprecedented.
Residents of other cities might smile the resigned smile of inveterate sufferers, but in the UK, the categorization of weather follows different criteria. First off, the occurrence of weather itself is a notable event. Normally, it's between 10 and 20 degrees with changes between a mild mist hanging languidly in the air and feeble sunshine. As soon as conditions stray from that, weather is invoked and chaos breaks out. Every afternoon above 25 degrees launches a heat wave, officially sanctioned by the Met Office.
When, as newspapers report with honest panic between the type, "a severe blizzard is expected to blanket the country with up to four inches of snow", people freeze in anticipation. "Drifts of up to eight inches" are predicted as a bona-fide threat, not a contradiction. They make sure that public transport collapses, the electricity goes out and the provision with victuals becomes patchy. In London, first to break down is the Circle line, the only Underground line that runs true to its name in its entirely.
The last observation holds much to the understanding of the situation. The Circle line doesn't break down because of snow on the tracks or frozen points. The Circle line fails because it's old and fit for operation only in perfect conditions, the above-mentioned drizzle to sun at 20 to 25 degrees. Leeway to deal with deviations from the average is not built into public infrastructure.
As another example, when rain falls, not an unusual event by any stretch of the imagination, the sewers in London, designed more than a century ago, overflow. Thousands of colorectal expurgations come to float on the turbid waters of the Thames. If that's not a pretty thought, it's an even less pretty picture, but no one seems to be bothered unduly. Worse, those with the responsibility and, if it can be believed, the will to change something, are hindered by local authorities, foremost among them the Council of Hammersmith and Fulham, which governs my neighborhood in glorious ineptitude.
Upgrading the sewer system after decades of criminal neglect will not come cheap and it will inconvenience residents. It will also ensure that less shit is washed into the Thames and that kids can play by the water without fear of gastro-enteritis or Salmonella. But who cares about kids when you paid a million quid for a big house in a quiet street? You wouldn't want excavators to shake your foundations or wide lorries to scrape withing inches of your Jag, parked off-street because the library extension you put on your house took the space that used to be the garage's. Thus you have residents' groups fighting a temporarily annoyance only to prolong a persistent evil.
I can understand this attitude. I would assume the same, had I a Jag and a mansion near the river. I wouldn't want to have something in my expensive backyard that's of benefit to everyone. If I wanted to run a charity I would run my own and promote it properly and make sure that my involvement is publicly acknowledged. I can understand all this thinking. What I can't understand it that the Council not only accepts this reasoning as valid but makes it its own. I can't imagine that there's really that much campaign contribution money in local government.
Despite prolonged and serious cursing, a mailer from the Council makes it into my mailbox in painful regularity. This publication, funded with council tax in all likelihood and thus paid for in part by me, is the most partisan news organ I have encountered since the GDR fell to pieces. (It's probably worse than Fox News, the single most socialist aspect of the United States.)
A few weeks ago, the Council News warned of a "Stink-pipe to force World War II style evacuation". Demagoguery before facts, screaming before discussing, frenzy before sense: things I remember well from my childhood when nothing ever got fixed either. What I also remember is government only addressing the problems of a small minority of the citizens and not simply ignoring the rest but mocking them relentlessly.
This is not how things should go. If I stayed longer in London, I'd be tempted to get involved in local political, if only by spreading dissent in local meetings or promoting my mock-pressure group "Don't shit in my river". Alas, I'm leaving soon and anyway, it was only the rainy weekend that made me think about these things.