THE BLOG

An Englishman (Stranded) in New York

24/01/2014 14:26 GMT | Updated 25/03/2014 09:59 GMT

"New York, New York. It's a wonderful town" - That is until the snow comes down...

It just goes to show that you can never be too prepared or too forewarned. In advance of my arrival in the Big Apple on Monday, I had checked the weather, conscious that some of the worst winter storms in memory had plagued much of North East during the back end of last year.

Worryingly, the temperature showed a 20 degree drop between when I arrived on Monday, and my first meeting on Tuesday morning, so I made sure I had sweaters, gloves , a scarf and an overcoat with me, to the extent that I was worrying about my luggage allowance.

But numbers never tell you the whole story. A predicted 28 degrees Fahrenheit (a mere -2 degrees in European money), seemed chilly, but not a big deal.

My plane arrived without incident, and as I stepped out of Newark Airport into a car, the air was a touch cold, but nothing more.

After the usual troubled first night's sleep fighting the jetlag, I woke at about 4.30 and turned on the news. And the news was the weather. Lots of pictures of clouds sweeping up the Eastern seaboard, interspersed with archive footage from storms gone by.

At the bottom of the screen runs the ticker, and that was full of school early closing warnings, and strings of cancelled flights: It seemed I had got into the city just in time, but as it turned out, just in time to watch a mass exodus of people.

The first flakes hit at about lunchtime. I had already had several meetings cancelled, and I was finally on my way to one that someone was actually going to turn up to. Mainly because he had sneaked in that morning on the one and only flight from Chicago and had nowhere else to go.

It would be indiscreet to mention where I was, but what I can say is that the dining room I was lead to, high up in the air in New York, should have had a spectacular view (hence the reason that the institution concerned had put its posh eatery in that very place). My host very kindly pointed out to me all of the great sights of New York. Or at least where they would have appeared if there had been a view: the air was completely white, with visibility down to a few yards.

It was a lovely lunch, though...

My next appointment was with a man who was undaunted by the snow, but to get there I (rather foolishly as it turned out) decided to get a cab as I was near Wall Street, and my next appointment was way up town (I'm beginning to get used to the geography of the city, but when you come from a town that is geographically laid on its side like London is, the verticality of it is a bit much to take)

Paul Simon wrote the song "Slip Sliding Away" while in the back of a cab in New York in the snow, of this I am convinced. It did not help that in true Yellow Cab style my driver was not overly familiar with the streets he drove every day, nor that he exercised the same defensive driving techniques that he would use on dry roads on a hot day. Acceleration plus hard braking has undesirable effects when done on ice.

My host (once I arrived) looked at me in horror that I had sat in the back of a cab at all, let alone in the conditions that we were facing, and admonished me to a) walk or b) get the subway. I tried the former to get back to my hotel, and the latter to get to my final meeting of the day near Wall Street.

And then it got worse.

Tuesday was bright sunshine, and wind so cold that it apparently felt like -8 degrees Fahrenheit. That is genuinely Arctic, and it turned out I was the only person in New York who did not own a woolly hat - and by the time I realised I needed one, they were $500 on Ebay

The final insult? My train out of the city on Wednesday was cancelled. Only because three people cancelled their trip at 4am when I was still on the phone to Amtrak was I able to get on a later (packed) train, which is where I am sitting now.

My friends from Boston and Chicago tell me that New Yorkers don't know how to handle snow and ice. Coming from a country where the "wrong sort of snow" has paralysed the rail network, I do not feel able to offer an opinion. But assuming my train doesn't now break down, I can safely say I'm pleased to be going somewhere else. Sorry New York: I think I'll come in the spring next time... Or maybe Paris is a better bet?