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A distinct shortage of grit

Phil is appalled at his wussy patients who use a sprinkling of snow as an excuse not to turn up to their appointments

Last year we took the lads to northern Finland for a winter holiday. We went for the snow. We wanted to fish through the ice, to go on a husky safari, to drive snowmobiles through the wilderness, to sledge down snow-covered hillsides, to drink glüwein and ice-skate in the evenings.

We did all that, and loved it. We found a country that lives perfectly happily under a cover of ice for six months of the year, a country that can cope, and doesn't make a big girly fuss when frozen water falls from the sky. They plough most of the snow off the roads, then just get on with it.

Of course, they're used to it. Also of course, parts of our own country can cope with that sort of weather too because it happens on a fairly regular basis – in Scotland at least. You don't normally hear about it because generally snow doesn't fall in London, except in Richard Curtis films. But this year we've all had it, including the South-East, so now it's been in the news.

Until the recent thaw, we'd had snow in Sunderland since Christmas, and it's hard to stress just how much of a pain in the arse it has been. I won't bore you with the stories, because for once we've all experienced the same thing, and we've all done our best to get into work but have been frustrated by driving behind some moron who appears to think that driving over an inch of snow is the same as driving over nitroglycerine. Several times I have contemplated getting out of my car, walking alongside the car in front (easily done, given the speed that they go) and shouting through the driver's window: ‘Speed up, you bastard! It's just a bit of bloody snow!'

We have a temperate climate, most of the time, so I'm not expecting to be able to break out teams of huskies and build ice hotels at a moment's notice. But for goodness sake, can we not cope with it better than we have done?

It took me four hours to drive the 20 miles from Hartlepool United's ground to my home after the match last week, crawling along behind hundreds of wusses, and two inches of slush don't appear to me to be good enough explanations.

I spoke to one of my regulars on the phone the other day. ‘I think I've got a chest infection,' she bleated, weakly.

‘Okay. Come on down. I can fit you in this afternoon'.

‘Oh, but I don't like to drive in this weather, doctor. It's so dangerous'.

‘I've seen your car,' I told her. ‘It's one of those monster 4x4 jobs. Why did you buy it, if not for times like these? Do you think it will be any less dangerous for me in my crappy old Rover?'

Needless to say, she did not get a home visit.

All of my staff have struggled in over the past few weeks, but the DNA rate has gone through the roof, including one patient whose house I can see from the front door of the surgery.

We cleared the paths and gritted the car park. There wasn't much else we could do.

One thing that we do not appear to be able to do is put grit in the souls of the punters. And this is global warming, by all accounts. God help us if we ever hit another ice age.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Phil Peverley