The Sky Is Falling…


(photo from Lady Stevo for the Flickr Snowday London group)

…or so the papers and TV would have you believe, anyway. Heaviest snowfall in eighteen years, trains and bus services paralysed, roads gridlocked. Nightmare, right?

Well, kind of. Getting into work was slightly more problematic than usual, and I will admit to writing this on the train on the way home after a disgracefully short day. However, I managed everything on my schedule before I left. I just wanted to avoid any potential nightmares at evening rush hour while doing a sneaky half-day at the same time.

The most difficult part of the journey for me today was the walk to Reading station. Iced-up snow made the going underfoot slow to treacherous, and I slipped over once (and of course, got to my feet to hear a concerned voice behind me ask, “are you alright, mate?” Great, bad enough that I found it impossible to keep my balance, without a witness there to see the whole embarrassing spectacle). However, we try to remain graceful under pressure. I only nearly twisted my ankle. That would have been fun. I’d have had to limp home under the same icy conditions, and uphill. As it was, I virtually skated from Picadilly Circus to Wardour Street, and it’s getting glassier underfoot as the day wears on.

The thing that struck me was how easily convinced people have been that it’s OK to take a snow day. The BBC was practically encouraging it, which would have made an interesting conversation with your boss. “I can’t make it in today. Emily Maitlis told me not to.”

With that in mind, it felt like a Sunday in Soho. Everywhere was quiet. Shops just didn’t bother opening. There was nothing on the roads. Work was half-empty, and the receptionist was so glad to see someone that she gave me a hug when I got in.

It never ceases to astonish me how crap we are in bad weather. Stopping the bus services in London this morning was disgraceful, and even though I’m used to the tubes falling over at the first sign of anything other than dry, temperate weather, I would have been in real trouble if the bit of the Bakerloo line I needed hadn’t been running. A walk into work would have resulted in a snapped appendage at best, and oh yeah, no buses.

I find it hard to believe that there’s no bad weather plan in place, to prevent the PR nightmare for Bozo Boris the Comedy Mayor of news footage showing snow-covered buses and trains shut in their depots during Monday rush hour. Hardly good for business, eh? In fact, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, it’s going to cost us £1.2 billion per day in lost earnings while people don’t go to work – an estimated 20% of the population didn’t make it in today for whatever reason.

Maybe the ease with which most of England decided “sod it, let’s have a day off and build a snowman” is partly due to the prevailing gloom and dark mood. No-one’s really feeling too incentivised at the moment, so the chance to kick back for a day must have been too good to miss. If there’s the slightest chance that you could be delayed getting into work, or that the person you need to see won’t make it in, or if the kids school has closed and they need someone to look after them, then you’re going to take the day off, and all power to you. You know full well you’re not alone. It’s the perfect excuse. “Everyone else is doing it. Why can’t I?”

If there hadn’t been a train waiting at Reading when I arrived, I may well have decided not to bother.

And it is darn pretty out there today…

DISCLAIMER: of course, a ton of people have struggled to make it into work today in appalling conditions. Clare tried and failed to get out of a gridlocked Caversham for an hour today before going home, having a hot drink then heading into Reading by bus to get the train to Oxford. That’s commitment, peoples.

Finally, idiot question of the day. While waiting for the 23 home at Reading, a well-spoken chap came up to me and asked what bus I was waiting for. Then asked me if they were running. I was polite, and did not give voice to my immediate reaction, which was “well, if they’re not, we’re both going to look stupid and feel cold, aren’t we?”

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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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