National emergency of the week
The staff of Double Take, having ill-advisedly arranged to embark on an away day and group bonding experience, were reluctant to cancel at the last minute for fear of being thought as wimpish and pathetic as the rest of the population. Sheriff Muir had decreed that 'The Team’ (as he somewhat ironically insists on describing the rag, tag and bobtail of journalistic rejects who inhabit Liberator House) should travel independently and congregate at a remote hotel of his choice in Cumbria, a family-unfriendly establishment strategically situated many miles from the nearest transport hub.
Sheriff Muir himself had ventured no further than Sanquhar before being overcome by six snowflakes. 'I counted them all down,' he recounted later, 'and I counted them all up again.' After noting a distressing example of panic buying – there was not a lottery ticket to be had at the local co-op – he continued on steadfast foot to Annan, where at length he boarded the late-running Carlisle service, the last for the foreseeable future. The train manager (as the guard is now known, conferring a certain dignity on that vocation) informed our correspondent that the service had been delayed at Kilmarnock on account of its frozen horn.
Our Banffshire correspondent Maggie Knockater admitted that she had broken the Tuesday evening curfew, leaving the house briefly at 6.06pm to see if there was anybody about. There was not a soul on the streets: the curfew in Macduff had been an unqualified success. Everyone was standing by their tablets, screens and radio receiving apparati, anxious to play a small part in the unfolding national catastrophe. She had, however, obeyed official instructions to telephone frail and elderly members of the community to enquire after their welfare. None replied. Ms Knockater was reassured by the thought that the recipients of her concern had already expired in the extreme conditions, no doubt a source of relief to our over-burdened NHS.
Media and arts correspondent Mary Culter revealed that she had been made to feel deeply uncomfortable by a Beast from the East Neuk on her way back from an improving, though rather poorly attended, poetry reading in Anstruther. It was clear that the person in question was suffering from an acute case of stratospheric vortex. So unsteady was his gait that it seemed to Ms Culter he might have been anticipating the onset of minimum alcohol pricing. Having struggled back to Stockbridge she was at once confronted by a gesticulating maniac in the corner of her living room. Too late for the full recovery of sanity, she realised it was merely another weather forecaster.
Political correspondent Kitty Brewster, still heady from the feelgood factor of supping from the Calcutta Cup with the first snowperson, drove through the worst of Storm Emma, reaching Shap around midnight. By then, only Kirk Oswald was missing, presumed lost on the Queen Snowperson Crossing. In the absence of any hotel employees save a snoring porter, general dogsbody Tilly Drone went 'behind the scenes' to fetch teabags for all: except for Sheriff Muir, who produced his trusty hipflask, which he had cunningly refilled at the Sanquhar Co-op in the last hours of normality before Snowmageddon.
It felt like the end of the known world: trains cancelled in anticipation, airports in lockdown, schools closed (poor little darlings, it never took much), rural communities cut off, roads ungritted, the usual lorries overturned on demand, only telly presenters and headline writers still able to get to work. 'Tis the spirit of the new, have-a-go Brexit Britain,' cheerfully opined Sheriff Muir. It was agreed at an impromptu editorial conference in the resilience room, chaired by Ms Culter shortly after 1am, that in view of the risk to life and property, it would not be possible to resume normal service until next week – weather and mass hysteria permitting.
Double Take is edited by The Beast from the East with the assistance of staff writers Kitty Snow (politics), Sheriff Plough (legal and constitutional affairs), Mary Flurry (arts, media and gender issues), Kirk Slush (nooky news), Tilly Flake (editorial assistant and general dogsbody), Jon Snow (the guy on the box), Maggie Gritter (Banffshire correspondent) and Bob Thaw (artist in residence).