The first snows and sleet of winter have arrived, with the usual effects: chaos on the roads and in bookmakers' offices, as punters place bets on a White Christmas.

After a brief dither by the forecasters - yes it will snow, no it'll come later, whoops it's on its way - the right kind of snow has come to Britain to take us all from balmy November into wintery December. Freezing fog in the Midlands and snow on the M25 and M20 in Kent have brought the usual traffic problems, but the snow has not been settling, so difficult conditions have not persisted.

Once again, however, the nation's poor grasp of statistics has exhibited itself in bookmakers' shops, with a rush of bets on a White Christmas. In some parts of the country, bookies have had to pay out for the past two years as some snow fell on Christmas day, though last year was the first time for 20 years that a snowflake was spotted on the roof of the Meteorological Office in London.

Sniow falling in the firstw eek of December, however, does not correlate with Christmas snow, so the punters who have been rushing to gamble their money over the past few days are not behaving rationally. All the same, William Hill cut its odds from 7-1 to 6-1, and Coral dropped theirs from 7-1 to 4-1 after taking thousands of pounds in bets.