One may doubtless be astounded, that after the pretty dusting of snow which hit south-east England on Sunday morning that this column has been written at all. This weekend’s “Snowmaggedon” has caused many absences from the start of the working week. Sunday began with a plethora of Insta-pictures featuring snowmen and ecstatic dogs, but by the evening, as my phone pinged with pre-cancelled Monday morning meetings due to closed schools, scuppered childcare, frozen car engines and suddenly ill relatives.
It struck me that Britain had group-thunk itself into a Snowmaggedon Monday off. Still a few of us battled on, albeit at half pace, with an eye towards clocking off ASAP to make hot buttered toast and crack through The Crown season 2.
The Snowmaggeddon is modern social media’s fault. Or perhaps it’s greatest gift. Definitely the latter if you’re currently not at work but lying in bed with your electric blanket on low simmering your innards. It feels curious now that merely a decade ago, in a world pre-WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, iPads, Siri, Alexa or Facebook Messenger, a zeitgeist thing that did unite us was a shared love of the reclaimed Second World War motto “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
In a less connected Britain, in a time before mass social media, we clearly believed ourselves to be an island of gritty stoics. We plastered the phrase over posters, tea-towels and birthday cards. Snow would not stop us, nor rain, nor bombs, nor whatever else you chucked at Blighty. We’d still open our shops, teach classes or take a 9am meeting even if killed us.
A decade later, I sense a shift, a quite delicious, decadent one too.
“Please do not visit us this morning,” urged one local business on my Twitter timeline early on Sunday, “The roads are far too dangerous. Stay home, shop online.” Which was kind, except at this point London was merely a bit drizzly. My umbrella blew inside out when I popped to Sainsbury’s for almond milk but I’m saving the more frightening moments of this for my memoirs.
If businesses seemed cautious, perhaps it was because a quick shufty around social media warned that Sunday’s snowfall was merely a gentle pre-amble to La Niña hitting Britain, which is a predicted collision between two Atlantic weather systems – North Atlantic oscillation and quasi-biennial Oscillation, since you ask. Think The Day After Tomorrow with Jake Gyllenhaal, where the Statue of Liberty ends up to the nostrils in an Earth-annihilating geo-storm. And then ask yourself, do you really need to go down Arndale Centre to start your Christmas shopping, Brenda? No you don’t. You have a nice day off.
Elsewhere in the Snowmaggedon, there was no snow at all. The temperature in Cumbria dropped to -11C over the weekend, although this is fairly routine and would not prevent the womenfolk, of which I count myself, attending winebars wearing only perfumed body butter and sparkly pelmets. Coventry experienced a foot of snow and was reported to be “in absoloute chaos” although accompanying photos showed revellers riding down hills on trays.
In fact as news reports spoke, in grave tones, of treacherous ice and salt supplies, one thing that struck me, across social media, was how happy this chaos was making people. The snow makes us childlike, it inspires wonderment, and it shows us humdrum things through fresh eyes. And better still, in a difficult, demanding world snow legitimises a touch of lethargy. Not if you’re homeless or starving or the only person left manning a hospital ward, of course, but for many people the now makes us high as a kite on cancelled plans.
That terrible Sunday afternoon you had penciled in visiting an awful cousin’s new baby, or measuring up shelves and trekking to Ikea, or taking the kids to a sports event they were dreading more than you were. All now cancelled due to snow! While the sentiment of Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” sounds exhausting and terrifying, I could cope more with endless unplanned Snowmaggeddon. It is a holiday with no gift-giving, no divisive religious message and no traditions. It is merely a day for one to go mysteriously missing from one’s job, muttering something about a shonky commuter track, knowing full well that no one in human resources will challenge you as they’re “working from home” too.
In many ways, Monday 11 December was the national holiday we have been so cruelly denied for Harry and Meghan’s wedding. And that day-off would have come with a semi-condition you put up bunting, watched eight hours of Piers Morgan wedding preamble and bought in a lot of Marks & Spencer royal wedding-themed buffet. Snowmaggeddon Day only needed a tin of Campbell’s tomato soup, crumpets, Netflix and a duvet. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
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