Leading article: Normal service resumed

"Through primrose tufts in that sweet bower, the periwinkle trailed its wreaths ... birds around me hopped and played." Thus wrote William Wordsworth in "Written In Early Spring", which was clearly not penned in weather like this.

Spring officially started today, though so far many of us are not so much hailing the advent of the new season as still watching the hail. But should draw comfort from the meteorologists, who say that this has not in fact been a long, hard winter. It just seems that way after 15 mild ones.

For most plants, trees and hibernating animals, a long winter is "a good rest". So there. We can hanker for short, mild winters all we like, but it is like subjecting the natural world to sleep deprivation. Wordsworth would have been shocked to hear of daffodils coming out in February.

As for the Tudor and Stuart writers, enduring the arctic winters of that mini-ice age, they would smile at our grumbling. We're back to normal this year, that's all. Enjoy it.