February 3, 2009

Snow: Good for you, bad for business


You can't see any of London's famous bookstores in this photo, can you? That's because they're under the snow.

You can't see any of London's famous bookstores in this photo, can you? That's because they're under the snow.

It’s snowing! Yay! Everyone skive off work and play in the park all day! Have snowball fights! Woooooooooo!

No seriously, that is how people in London react to exciting weather events, like the snow that has blanketed us since last night. Hardened bankers make snowmen with their dog walkers, checkout assistants sneak you free tomatoes, strangers smile at each other… The bust of JFK on Portland Place had a hat made of snow, a little like one of those ridiculous bearskins: I and two unknown women were clutching at each other in fits of giggles. It’s a whole different place.

Obviously, being English and therefore best equipped to moan about stuff instead of dealing with it, we were totally unable to cope with the side effects. The water mains in Central London burst, the tubes are down all over the city and no one has gone into work. Our esteemed Mayor Boris Johnson has been on the news ranting about our laziness and offering to cancel the congestion charge for anyone who braves the elements and drives to their office. Not going to happen, Boris. This kind of fun comes but once a decade for Londoners – why would we waste our time doing a stupid job thing?

News just in from the Bookseller: the “Arctic conditions” are predicted to have an adverse effect on the book trade. I’m not making it up – read it here. The headline is appropriately dramatic: Snow Settles Over UK Book Business. Only a quarter of staff in the industry made it in today (See?) and the knock on effects mean that – some books may not be ordered till later in the week. Dah dah DAH! Most deliveries were on time, a fair number of customers went to the shops that bothered to open, that’s really all that happened. But it sure as hell deserves the top billing in their news section.

British people: you may think we’re all reserved and stuff, but actually we’re a bunch of drama queens waiting for something – anything – to happen.

Alice Waugh is a journalist and novelist living in London.