So you left the house yesterday and something like this happened: Your feet slithered about on the pavement, either causing you to skid and fall, painfully, or almost fall, making your stomach lurch. Yet you trudged on, resolutely, feeling like Viggo Mortensen in those posters for The Road except without small child to lean on for balance.
Maybe you had to get in a car, which meant half-an-hour of ice-scraping before going anywhere, then an elaborate de-misting ritual and a nail-biting drive in low gear. Maybe you had to then spend the night in the car, even gave birth in it, or abandon it altogether on the A3 and stagger through the drifts to the Horndean branch of Morrissons, which yesterday became an impromptu shelter for the stranded.
At the very worst, perhaps, you tried to go to Bristol Airport or Gatwick to catch a cancelled plane, or were stuck on Eurostar somewhere beneath the sea, or sat on a rail replacement bus that didn't go anywhere, then did, then didn't again. Eventually, you arrived at your destination 15-and-a-half hours late – if at all – with the sound of apologies, delays, weather reports and warnings still ringing in your ears. Quite possibly, by that time you felt not only tired but furious and frustrated.
The snow has wreaked havoc for millions. But for those of us who have been inconvenienced rather than actually physically injured by the extreme weather, let me suggest a more zen way of looking at the week's "transport misery". Could it be that being forced to plan ahead, to be pessimistic about our chances of getting anywhere, to take more care when we move, and use more concentration and ingenuity at every turn, are all good things?
Travel has become ludicrously easy in the 21st century. The sort of effort required to make a journey just 100 years ago is unthinkable now. Convenience is a wonderful thing. It's one of the best aspects of not being born in the Middle Ages.
But it has also turned the time we spend in transit into dead time. We rush through it as quickly as possible. Even if a journey takes time, we're disengaged from our movement, or aim to be. Sat navs, £5 flights, the iPod, shopping malls at airports, upgrades, lounges and in-car entertainment all conspire to swaddle the modern traveller into a mindless state of barely-conscious movement. Just get me there.
Japan has probably the most sophisticated travel network in the world, and its citizens are kept constantly entertained by boredom-killing gadgets whenever they are in motion; the first time I visited Tokyo, I didn't look out the window at the famous cityscape once, because I was laughing too hard at the TV show on the screen in the back of the driver's seat. Which was weird, because I'd just spent 11 hours in statis on a jumbo jet trying to get there. As technology advances, we're all moving towards not only faster, but less meaningful travel.
The ultimate billionaire's trophy of the day is a mega-yacht, a construction that looks nothing like a boat either inside or out, which envelops the floating mogul in familiar surroundings, wherever he goes. Could it be that the disruption of our usual routines this week gave us a taste of what travel really is, in the raw, unaided by modern convenience – a quest that is fraught with danger but, for the open-minded, also offers the possibility of adventure and discovery?
You think I'm joking. But the age of straightforward, leisurely, mindless air travel is already over. Western governments' reactions to the threat of terrorism are threatening to turn flying into an experiment in psychological torture; those who think that the super-secure way of flying won't be too bad haven't tried El-Al. In my experience (as a single, non-Israeli flying to Tel Aviv with the national carrier) £400 buys you multiple interviews by openly suspicious personnel, armed guards surrounding the plane and body searches at the gate. I arrived at the other end twitching with paranoia, but it wasn't boring.
Perhaps if travel is less predictable, and a more serious undertaking, we'll do less of it (as we're urged to by the green lobby). Every journey will be the trip of a lifetime, a journey to remember – for good reasons or bad. We're not quite there yet. So until then, enjoy the travel chaos while it lasts.
Beauty – in the eye of the beholder
Lovely mascara, darling. Hey, is that a new blusher you've got on? No – I've never heard a (straight) man say that to me, either. But it turns out that, very secretly, men are great experts on the feminine art of maquillage.
According to a preposterous survey widely reported this week, one in five think that their wives or girlfriends wear too much make-up. The 2,000 gentlemen surveyed displayed an improbably precise knowledge of the Bobbi Brown counter, too. Foundation tide-marks on the jaw line appeared near the top of the list of turn-offs for men, as were thick mascara, heavy blusher and Amy Winehouse-style eyeliner "flicks". Celebrities who habitually apply their slap with a trowel like Katie Price and Cheryl Cole hold no allure.
Instead, the message from the survey, say St Ives, a company that happens to market the "natural look", is that men prefer the ungilded lilies, as personified by fresh-faced Jennifer Aniston or Halle Berry. Uh-huh. The natural look, as every woman discovers to her dismay quite early on, generally requires access to a war-chest of carefully-chosen concealers, glosses and highlighters. Besides, if one-fifth of men want women to lay off the lipstick, doesn't that mean that the majority want us to wear more?
Advertising its own failure
How not to start a debate: this week the Outdoor Advertising Association launched a series of bus-side adverts with provocative slogans designed to show off the impact of their most prominent sites. They kicked off this national campaign with a poster that read "Career Women Make Bad Mothers", which was, according to Beta, the agency behind it, intended as "a portal for debate".
Oddly enough, plenty of women didn't find the poster particularly conducive to reasoned discussion, and on Wednesday the OAA found itself the target of a campaign by Mumsnet and was forced to take the 11,500 ads down. What's bemusing is why an advertising body chose such a lame creative idea to promote its own product. We all know the advertising industry is in dire straits. This only advertised their desperation. Why stop at using working mothers as a "hot topic"? Why not promote debate with assertions that "All Northerners are criminals" or "It's time to close our borders"?