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Weather Wise

A White Christmas is a bookie's worst nightmare. But this week, pleasant dreams are on their menu.

"The shortest odds I have ever seen on a three-legged horse." That was how Philip Eden of PA WeatherCentre described the 6-1 offered by William Hill on a White Christmas. After odds of around 10-1 a couple of months ago, a surge of betting - particularly when cold weather at the beginning of the month brought an early snowfall - led the odds to be cut first to 6-1 and then, by some bookies last week, even to 2-1. A White Christmas would clearly have been expensive for the bookies, and - even though forecasters were predicting no snow - they were evidently eager to cut their potential losses.

The present odds look far from generous. "It's going to be a green and brown Christmas," predicts Mr Eden. Graham Sharpe of William Hill, however, said: "This is what the weathermen said last year and look what happened then - it snowed in London for the first time in 20 years." One can understand his anxiety. His company stands to lose pounds 250,000 if it snows. "After the last two years," he said, "I think some punters have come to see this as their Christmas bonus from us."

The current forecast, however, is for temperatures as high as 14C on Christmas Eve and 12C on Christmas Day. They would have to be a long way out to see any snow.