Me, my mate and the M8

14th January 2011 at 00:00

I was very lucky on the Day Central Scotland Stood Still. In the morning, I had left my car in the village of Allanton where my colleague's journey to work intersects with mine. It was his turn to drive. Snow was forecast, but it would be over by the time we were due to return home.

As we bowled along the M8 in his Mazda 2, the first flakes began to fall, but we reached Dunfermline without difficulty. By mid-afternoon, it seemed that the sensible thing to do was to return home while it was still light.

The Fife skies were clear, but reports from family at home and at work in Livingston told of poor conditions. Unfortunately, the Forth Road Bridge was closed, so we had to wait an hour or so before setting off. It took two-and-a-half hours instead of the usual 15 minutes to reach the M9. By that time, Radio Scotland was relaying the news that the M8 was at a standstill.

I suggested we went home via the A89. Normally, when I make a suggestion like that, we end up in an even bigger traffic jam on a worse road, but this time it proved to be exactly the right thing to do. It took a further two-and-a-half hours to get to Allanton, but we got there, which would not have happened had we joined the motorway.

Bursting for the loo, hungry and thirsty, I told my colleague to drop me off in the main road lest he should get stuck in the sidestreet where my Nissan had been left. When I reached my car, I had to rein in my emotions. It was snowed in. It took me a further 20 minutes to dig it out, but it was almost worth it for the feeling of elation I felt when the car broke free.

I slept badly that night, suffering a rare migraine. Amid the storm in my head, analogies between the road conditions and the tuition fees debate swirled, coalesced, then melted away. People were complaining that the country had ground to a halt. Would they be prepared to pay more taxes to keep it going? What if they didn't drive themselves? Did they appreciate that the shops would run out of food if there was gridlock?

People on the radio talked about snow tyres. If I bought snow tyres, I could go to the North Pole. North Pole. Opinion poll. Should snow tyres be compulsory? It's no use if I buy them but the person in front doesn't and I get stuck behind him. That way, I'll never get to the north opinion pole - or Dunfermline. More taxes for everyone. It's the only fair solution.

In the morning, the skies and my head had cleared. The motorways had not. I worked at home, stopping at break time to shovel away some snow. As I donned my Lewis Hamilton skip cap, the corporate sponsorship logo caught my eye. Sticking the shovel into a pile of snow more aggressively than was strictly necessary, I recalled my thoughts on taxes and how it is easier for some people to avoid them than it is to drive the M8 on a snowy day.

Gregor Steele now has a deep-seated respect for the last generation Mazda 2.

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