The overnight temperature dropped to -13.2 C.
The council have not ploughed our access road since the last snowfall. They haven’t gritted it for days.
The road between our croft and the village has been ploughed, but is covered in compacted snow and ice.
The roads are much more slippery today than they have been throughout the heavy snow falls because they’re covered in compacted ice, often with a thin coat of loose snow on top.
Aberdeenshire Council is prioritising major routes only to stretch its gritting resources.
Our local primary school is closed to both transport pupils, such as our boys, and to village pupils as it’s considered too dangerous for school buses to run or for children to walk along the icy footpaths.
The Other Half is a teacher, and her secondary school 20 miles away is closed to transport pupils as it’s too dangerous for school buses to operate.
So what do the school managers expect?
They expect their staff to show up for work, even if they live outside walking distance of their schools and even if they live well away from their school.
As a result, I was outside at 6.30am, working in temperatures of -10.7C to get the OH on her way to work.
First, I had to slip and slide my way to the feed store to get the salt so I could make a safe path to the car.
The Land Rover’s locks had to be thawed, then the hinges. The air intakes were blocked with ice so they had to be cleared.
Two feet of snow had to come off the bonnet and roof, but the ground was too slippery so more salt went down.
I shovelled a clear path down to the junction, then dug through the drifts thrown up by the plough.
With one wheel track cleared, I dug a second path back to our entrance.
I spread almost 10kg of salt down both wheel paths and switched the car off, before going back inside to thaw my feet.
A mere two hours had passed.
I put my boots on a radiator, had some breakfast and went back out.
By now, it was 9am and time for the OH to be at work.
I had to thaw the Land Rover’s tailgate fasteners with a blowtorch so I could open the pickup bed to load an extra snow shovel, hessian sacks and a few other things in addition to our normal recovery gear.
I put more salt down as the cleared and salted tracks to the “main” road had frozen again.
The OH was loaded into the car, along with food, a thermos of hot water and tea bags, waterproof overtrousers, spare socks, spare shoes, fully charged mobile phone and more. (We already have drinking water, blankets, gritting salt and the like in the truck.)
The last I saw of her she was rounding a bend at about 10mph, with the back end of the truck gently but controllably going sideways.
She was already 38 minutes later for work.
I emailed our two local councillors, saying in part:
“If the council is neither ploughing nor gritting minor routes, and accepts that it is unsafe for children to get to school, why do its education managers think it acceptable to put pressure on their staff to attend?
“I’ve had no problems with the amount of ploughing and gritting done on our rural roads. in fact, the work that has been done has exceeded my expectations.
“But there are obviously limits to what can be done and education managers should bear this in mind when expecting their staff to appear at work.
“I know they will come up with “escape” clauses such as “attend only if its safe”, but as my wife and I are well aware that’s a figleaf intended to show they are displaying a duty of care towards their employees. In reality, teachers and other employees who do not go in will have a black mark put against them.”
I went on to say:
“Education managers should give up their macho attitudes and use the brains they supposedly have.
“If the roads are too unsafe for buses to collect children and take them to school, then it can hardly be safe for teachers and other staff to drive in.
“It should be simple enough to pick up a phone and check with schools closest to where any given teacher lives and see if their school transport is able to run. If it isn’t, then it is unfair and unsafe to put pressure on staff to drive from that area to their school.”
Just as I finished inserting that paragraph, a neighbour phoned.
Our neighbour had already phoned her school and asked what the head teacher wanted her to do given our local conditions.
The head said it wasn’t her job to make a decision. It was her job to record who had and who had not turned up at school.
As our neighbour said, “In other words, the assumption will be that if you don’t turn up and other people do, then you are skiving.”
Never mind that the roads are worse now than when they were under inches of snow. Never mind that it’s too dangerous for children to go to school.
Never mind that little meaningful work would be done in the absence of most students and many staff.
No, while managers will publicly pretend it’s okay for staff to stay home if the roads are unsafe, in reality staff are expected to be at work and to be there on time.
Talk about stupid macho posturing.