Thursday, 2 December 2010

A Snowy London Thursday

Source: MJA Smith

I've never liked snow. I hated it as a kid, though I'm sure I must occasionally have had some fun at some point. Chiefly I associate snow with having to wear wellington boots, which I detested; detested so much that during the bleak snow-filled winters we seemed to have every year in England in the early to mid-Eighties I'd occasionally find myself choosing to be one of the kids who didn't have wellies with them, thus being forced to spend breaktime and lunchtime in the classroom with the kids who had colds or ear infections, or who were being punished, rather than pelting my school friends with snowballs. That and the memory of the trek up the road to my school with my mother, past gutters from which foot-long stalactites of icicles would dangle; a sort of weird Narnia in the heart of the Midlands, past the old man's house with a different Meccano model in the window every day like some sort of out of place Lapland toymaker.

It's snowing in London today. I'm passing through Barbican Underground and there is something peaceful about the undisturbed snow on the disused platform; however everywhere else the snow is already becoming dirty as progressive commuters tramp their cold way to work. That I'm even on a Tube seems mildly amusing – checking the TFL website on the way to Euston, the Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines that I rely on to get me to the office are all suffering with severe delays, though I somehow managed to catch a half empty Met Line service no had than I stepped on to the platform at Euston Square.

I spoke to a native New Yorker this week who couldn't believe how poorly Britain copes with extremes of weather, and it is true. A colleague who lives near Horsham hasn't been able to get in to London the past two days as train services into London Bridge have all been cancelled. He and I were both supposed to be in Edinburgh from Tuesday to Thursday, but Edinburgh Airport has been closed most of the week. The New York guy said that in Manhattan life just goes on as it did before. The Lithuanian guy who works in our building's Starbucks concession also said that back home snow just doesn't bother them, their tyres having chains to prevent slippage. Here, it's complete chaos. News reports tell you how much a day of snow costs the economy, yet nothing changes. Roads go ungritted. Electricity supplies get cut. Intake of hot chocolate increases. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose as they say.

Somehow I managed to get to the office and home both days I've been into London this week, travelling from one of those serendipitously placed corridors north of London where business has carried on reasonably as usual. That said, I could have done with not looking like a complete tit wearing a beanie hat I picked up at some outward bound course somewhere in darkest Surrey a few years back.

Still, there's always the excitement etched on the faces of my two little girls to warm my cantankerous attitude towards the snow. We had the barest dusting of snow at the weekend – literally a millimetre at a stretch – and they were bouncing off the walls with joy, asking to make snowmen and have snowball fights, lying on the carpets and making snow angels. They don't mind wearing wellies either, so no chance of them being the grumpy kid choosing to sit with the naughty and sick kids in the classroom at lunchtime.

As I was trudging across the brown slushy mess that adorned the pavement, I began to wonder why I was even bothering going into the office, given that I only had a bunch of conference calls that I could very well have done from home; then I got to my floor in our office building and took a look outside, and when I saw the City spreading out in front of me covered in a delicate blanket of white snow, I realised that's why I bothered.

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