An ox was roasted on a fire in the middle of the Thames. Charles 11 had his royal coach ‘driven’ on the river where he skated along with his courtiers. That was over three centuries ago, when 11 inches of thick ice lay across the Thames for two months. Fog Fairs were held, most had great fun.
But the white blanketing of London twice within five days was no fun for the usually doughty Londoners.
Having no such icy experience since 18 years neither the authorities nor the people knew how to cope with it. The rituals of winter snow were utterly new to any Londoner beneath voting age.
Businesses suffered £3 billion loss. The young company bosses had no clue how to keep turnovers going. Nearly 300 companies reported shortage of staff, one fifth—6.4 million- of the work force failed to get to work.
The authorities had decided to play safe and “closed” London. Offices were shut, tubes cancelled and the entire fleet of buses that carry six million commuters every day were locked up in depots.
Snow had achieved what even Hitler’s Luftwaffe could not. People were advised not to venture out unless absolutely necessary.
The High Streets thus looked deserted, plays cancelled, including Mousetrap, the world’s longest running play. This was the third closure in its long history.
The Old Bailey, for the first time, could not sit. But the philosopher kind while conceding that missed flights, lost income were no joke, said the disruption snow caused was quite proper. “Snow is meant to be anarchic.”
People reacted variously. Many saw beauty in the snow, improvised sledges, adults joined children in the battle of snowballs.
A few ventured out sightseeing and had a laugh seeing that the statue of Nelson Mandela was holding two snow balls in his large out-stretched hands.The statistics-prone informed that there was enough snow for each person to make 250,000 snowballs. And those who could not resist the pint and trudged to their locals had stories and anecdotes to relate, of secret, hitherto undiscovered routes they took, of strangers they met and befriended, of photos they took from their mobiles.
But when snow turned into ice, everyone moaned.
Except the one at a Gentlemen only club on Pall Mall who related a Churchillian anecdote. When told that a 75-year old man had made improper advances to a young girl who was making snowball in Hyde Park, Churchill retorted, “ Over 75 and below zero. Makes you proud to be an Englishman.” Wonder what he would have said of the present crop that closed London.