The Ice Factor

Commending the Camaraderie

The snow has all but melted and I’m glad it’s gone. We can walk without the ‘one false move and your dead’ feeling, we can wear normal shoes and get to places on time. But was the snow all bad? I think it gave Edinburgh something extra, something special, something I’m calling the Ice Factor.

In the snow, people look at you as they pass, they smile or say hello. No man is an island – well not if the Island is covered in snow.

It feels safe to walk home through deserted Leith side streets late at night. You’ve got to admit, there is something about sharing a common adversity that really brings people together? 

This can be confirmed as crime rates dropped over the last two weeks, along with the temperatures. Were criminals were too cold to commit crime? Were Muggers to chicken to run on ice? I think it’s more then that, I think it’s the Ice Factor. 

Like last Thursday, on route to work, I happened across an old lady …marooned. The path ahead was a thick and dangerous sheet of ice, blocking her goal, the shop. “I shouldn’t have come out” she said “It’s just I haven’t been out in days and I wanted to go to the shop”. 

I helped her as a man in red overtook and smiled. I caught up with him later at a crossing. He bravely abandoned the pavement and started walking in the road, dodging the cars. I joined him and he increased his car checking glances. He was looking out for me.

And although the image of the lady, marooned and distressed was a heartbreaking reminder of all those like her, I trusted that when she came out of the shop, there would be someone along to help her home. Because that’s what you do in the snow.

I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be in the middle of New York City when the lights went out in ‘Blackout 03’. Here I witnessed the coming together of people on a grand scale through shared adversity.

As I left a toilet cubical in Grand Central Station we plunged into darkness. I quickly backed back into my cubicle and locked the door, my heart was pounding, I feared terrorism just one year after 9-11. But a torchlight soon dispersed the darkness “This is the police, is anyone here? There’s been a power cut in the building, nothing to worry about, can I help anyone out?”. I waited until I heard someone else emerge from a cubical – you never know, she may have been a fake terrorist policewoman.

Later we saw the whole street was out, and later still, the entire city. No one really knew what was happening.

The occasional tramp with a battery operated radio had a crowd of friends, all eager to hear the news. The mobile networks jammed. The trains lay still, full of people. And we just had to make the best of it. Men courageously strode out into the middle of the road to direct the traffic (I was amazed by the number of civilians that just happen to carry a whistle for such occasions).

We were lucky enough to get a bus and as we passed through the city we saw it all, through the window. Within minutes a pregnant-lady-with-attitude stood braced across the back doors of our now totally packed bus. Every time the concertina doors opened she was ready “Don’t you even think about coming near my Baby!”. And no-one did.

Shops handed out free ice-cream as their freezers defrosted. Thousands of people slept rough and crime dropped to nearly zero in the city centre. It lasted all day and night. And people helped each other.

And the snow in Edinburgh felt a bit like that to me. 

I’m not alone. Novelist Ron Butlin painted a wonderful picture of the mood in Scotland’s capital on Radio 4’s Today Programme last week and the Edinburgh Guardian has a great collection of your wintry memories sent in via Flickr and Twitter

I’m glad the snow is gone but it wasn’t all bad. I hope something of the Ice Factor will remain in us….

Image Credit: Emily Dodd

Written by Emily Dodd

  • Michael Traill

    The bad weather was causing a fair few problems for people, myself included but I ended up in a random snow ball fight in Leith Links and it was rather nice just for ten minutes to have some fun with the snow rather than be worrying about how its affecting my bus or thinking about how ive got to go home and clear more snow from the path etc etc;

    It was nice to see people doing their bit whether it was clearing snow or checking on neighbours. I was wondering it that was what life was like in the olden days, people being neighbourly – people seem far to busy for that nowadays.

    I was on nightshift over the bulk of the bad weather so spent most of the day in bed meaning I wasn’t out clearing much snow but I still managed to do my bit. My local councillor was sending out daily updates, sometimes twice daily so I printed out copies and popped them through the doors in my street. It wasn’t much for those who couldn’t get out but at least it let them know what was happening.

  • Emily Dodd

    Thanks Michael – I really enjoyed reading your comment. It's all about everyone doing their bit.
    And snowball fights too.