Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snow place like London

The last few days have seen a strange mood descend upon London. The preverbial blanket of snow has seen people's usual sense of hurried activity and rushed anger somewhat muffled, instead to be replaced with an unbridled atmosphere of childish glee as the normally furious pace of London is replaced with snowballs and smiles.

I was walking to work when I first noticed it: I had no idea who he was, but he was scraping snow off a pub bench and launched it over a van at his two colleagues who were out of his eyeline. He grinned at me as he prepared the snowy missile; we both knew what was coming.

Work carried on in a similar vein. Only three of my PC Pro cohorts made it to the office - Jon apparently described me as a 'prat' for even trying to get there - so not much productive work actually got done. I only got there at 11:15, and by 12:15 we were on the smoking balcony - which had chairs, tables and about 15 inches of pure powder - for an almight snowball fight. It's not every day that you get to smack your boss in the face with a slab of snow, after all. This was followed by a 2-hour pub lunch - with snowballs being thrown to and from the venue - and then a bit more work. We got the email to leave at around 4pm to ensure that everyone could get a train home before they were all cancelled.

So we went back to the pub.

On the way home I saw more people enjoying the snow, and on the train in the morning I saw dozens sledging in a country park I pass on the way in. It was fantastic.

The only black mark surrounding this precipitious blip has been the reaction of much of the media and public transport. By Monday morning, the BBC had a logo for the 'Big Freeze' and The Guardian's website had 'live' coverage of some snow and ice. Ludicrous, over the top and a bit corny. My colleague Barry mentioned on Facebook that he wasn't impressed as to how his license fee was spent sending plenty of BBC reporters out to tell people that it had snowed - and I'm inclined to agree.

I also appreciate that running public transport services in bad weather must be horrendous. People cite the fact that in far harsher areas the trains and buses run on time nevertheless, but those regions are better prepared for bad weather.

Still, that's not really much of an excuse for the carnage that's been going on. I didn't know what train to get Monday morning as we weren't given much information, so I just hopped on the first one that arrived. No problem. The problem occured when my train decided to sit 5 minutes outside Paddington for three-quarters of an hour. Our driver came over the tannoy and said that we were sitting in a queue - although five or six trains left Paddington, passing us. Must have been a hell of a queue.

When I finally disembarked from the train, the London Underground provided another crushing blow of disappointment. Out of the eleven lines that displayed service information, eight were either experiencing severe difficulties or were closed completely. Sections that are above ground I can understand. However, the name gives it away: much of the London Underground is subterraenean. Snow doesn't really permeate that far. I'm sure that the staff were merely showing solidarity with their overground workers and shutting lines for the hell of it.

The evening journey wasn't much better, either. Dozens of trains cancelled or delayed - so I just got on a train to Reading and made my way home that way. I did the same this evening, although no services were leaving Reading to head towards Paddington because of a signal failure in Swindow. About forty miles to the west. If anyone could enlighten me as to why this stops trains leaving Reading, I'll be delighted to hear it.

Transport issues aside, though, snow rocks. The day at 'work' was ludicrously enjoyable and I just love snow anyway. I don't want to end on a bad note by complaining about the transport, so I won't. I'll just say that watching a snowball arc down onto Tim's head and disintegrate all over him was very, very satisfying!

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