The single flake of snow that brought a white Christmas windfall

CA single flake of snow falling on the London Weather Centre dealt a blow to the bookies who were already reeling from shelling out pounds 92,000 to punters who had laid money on the Spice Girls topping the Yuletide charts.

The arrival of the solitary flake on a rooftop in London's Clerkenwell was all that was needed to mark yesterday as Britain's first white Christmas in 20 years. Both Ladbrokes and William Hill will today start paying out around pounds 100,000 to thousands of punters cashing in on the windfall. The only question is whether the winners realise their good fortune.

"I hope they won't be throwing their slips away," said Simon Clare, a spokesman for Ladbrokes. "They'll be looking out of their window and thinking: `No way', when in fact they will be clutching what could be a fairly valuable Christmas bonus.

"There's not a sign of snow on the ground, but it definitely is a white Christmas. People have been asking: `Does it have to stick?' `Does it have to be in certain places?' But the fact is that at least one flake of snow on the London Weather Centre roof equals a white Christmas. By all accounts there wasn't much more."

It is only the third time that Ladbrokes has lost the seasonal flutter since it started the "fun Christmas bet" in 1964. And this year it took more money for the bet than in any previous year. The odds started at 12-1 last January, fell to 10-1 at the beginning of December and then to 2-1 on Christmas Eve.

Graham Sharpe, spokesman for William Hill, described the snow fall and Spice Girls' No 1 as a: "double whammy". The biggest winner in the capital was James Sexton, a public relations consultant who gave 1,300 clients Christmas presents of a pounds 1 snow wager.

The day was marked by record supermarket spending, British Telecom's busiest day of the year - and Heathrow's quietest.

In Northern Ireland, Christmas revellers set a world record for a single day's trading by Marks & Spencer store. More than 30,000 people piled into M&S at Sprucefield, outside Lisburn, Co Antrim, on Monday, spending almost pounds 1m.

The bumper total marks the largest food takings for any M&S on a single day anywhere in its world-wide chain. Andrew Keating, manager of the store, said people started queuing before 7am, when the store opened, and were still arriving when it closed - 15 hours later.

Christmas Day was BT's busiest day of the year - and yesterday's dialling looked set to beat last year's total of nine million hours' worth of calls around the world, and in particular to Australia, Canada, the US, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the Caribbean.

BT was expecting an increase of 10 per cent on the 47,229,687 calls made last year on the 25th when 33 million calls were local, 13 million regional and just over a million international. The average call length was 12 minutes, compared to the usual 2-to-5 minutes of a working day.

Meanwhile, Heathrow airport was experiencing its quietest day of the year. Staff enjoyed a break as a mere 41,000 passengers passed through the arrival and departure gates.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot