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The snow brings beauty and chaos to our landscape

THURSDAY New Year's Eve in Straffan and the snow starts to fall 20 minutes before midnight. It creates a bright winterland under the light of the moon. I am a huge fan of the Irish landscape. What a great start to 2010.

FRIDAY Chaos at the airport. Last time this happened it was Ryanair who complained most. This time it is silent, because it has a light schedule. It is Aer Lingus who are worst affected.

Ice and airports have a strange relationship. Some cope well with snowstorms, some sit down badly when you least expect it. I have flown through Chicago's O'Hare in a snowstorm and found my flight delayed by a light shower at the same airport. It's another one of the great mysteries of travel.

SATURDAY Big take-off day for the ski and sun market, which is a relief all round for our tour operators, considering so few seats were sold three weeks before Christmas. The average booking period for winter sun used to be six weeks out. Now it is three weeks and shrinking.

SUNDAY A drive on the icy roads to the village of Cloughmills in Antrim. The snow on the hills is picture-postcard material. This will be a big year for Antrim, with the new Giant's Causeway centre finally getting under way. Tourism Ireland, the 32-county board, should have an easy solution for the sterling-euro dilemma -- send people to Antrim. Here is one of the most beautiful parts of the land with good road access, but nobody bothers driving this far. I once spent a magical day on Rathlin and came home feeling like Robert Bruce's spider, telling people about Antrim but finding nobody travels there.

MONDAY Wisely, I decide not to fly out to a ski resort as planned. The way things are, we might not have to go anywhere for a ski holiday this year. Somebody once yoked up a tractor engine to a makeshift drag lift on the Sperrins. Even my local railway bridge would make a neat blue run because nobody is bothering to salt the roads.

TUESDAY The country is barely operating after a few days of snow and ice. Drivers more than roads are the problem. Some are driving too fast and recklessly, others too slowly and carefully and keeping feet pinned on the brake every time they slide. I am a big fan of foreign junkets for politicians and council officials, because I believe it is the only way they will learn anything. Why don't we send them to a country which has REAL snow to see how it is kept open?

In Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Canada, you can drive 1,000km in winter along the spine of the country without any hassle from snow and ice. Even Patagonia, which has no money, was keeping its roads open when I passed through on one chilly journey.

WEDNESDAY Snow again. My brother phones from Long Mile Road where he has spent an hour travelling 200m. Between 4pm and 7pm nobody can move. By 8.30pm the roads are clear and empty and travel is possible again.

That Norwegian trip for the county councillors is looking like a very good idea indeed.


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