Mark Steel: Snowmen are costing Britain billions

It's fine to skip work to play in the snow. But strike, and you wreck the country

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Snow used to be annoying, because it made everything stutter at half-speed, leaving you frustrated on icy rail platforms, or trying to find out what time the school would open. But now it's brilliant, because the moment a snowball's worth has settled every single thing packs up completely. It's not worth even asking whether a school, bus, library or cardiac unit might be opening. Just frolic about and laugh at the idiot spinning his car in circles.

Most things were still shut on the second day, even though the snow had mostly gone, because someone said there might be more coming. If one of these space probes finds evidence of snow on Mars, the buses will all be cancelled just to be on the safe side.

Then the reporters do that heroic bit where they stand under an umbrella gasping, "This LITERALLY apocalyptic downfall has landed on EVERYTHING. It's landed on trees, pavements, even on CATS if they've been outside, NOTHING is spared the relentless flakes. Reports are coming in of people walking across a park to find their socks are quite LITERALLY damp. Huw, I've read the Bible and quite frankly a plague of locusts would be welcome relief after this."

And we're told, "The police have issued a warning that for the time being no one should do anything whatsoever. Even filling in a crossword, they say, could lead to a broken hip or even an avalanche so just sit still for a few more days."

The weather office had been warning the snow would arrive for a week, but still there were hardly any preparations made to keep anything running. Transport for London will probably issue a statement that "This is a valid criticism, so next time we won't be caught out. Instead of cancelling everything on the day we'll cancel everything a week in advance."

As people have pointed out, there are other countries that have snow most of the time. And they keep doing things. For example there's a train called the Trans-Siberian Express. And they must have snow in Siberia. Presumably the board of Virgin trains must think this train has sat in the depot for a hundred years, and every day there's an an announcement that there's no service today because of frozen points at Novosibirsk.

But the most heartening response was from those newspapers that delighted in showing the result of no one going to work, with pictures of cavorting communities enjoying their impromptu holiday.

They must have lightened up, because before, if even one part of the workforce was off because they were on strike, we'd be told this was wrecking the lives of everyone in the country. So you'd expect their response to the joviality would be, "Callous snowman-builders cost Britain BILLIONS!" and to quote a mother saying, "My son was hoping to be a barrister. Now because of this day off school he'll have to make do with spending his life as a penniless nomad."

But now they've seen what fun it is for everyone to stay off work they'll suggest we should all have a general strike. Then they'll fill their papers with feelgood stories about council workers skipping through the bushes, as they don't have to spend their day driving vans and digging graves. Ann Widdecombe will be thrilled at the community spirit, as old and young link arms with a cheery "Good morning", and everyone agrees this a far better way to live, and wonders why no one seemed to think of it before.

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