Why Are We So Shocked By The Snow?

This article was first published in now-defunct thelondonpaper on 4 February 2009.

The British public is surprised by cold weather in winter for the 7,000th year running.

Across the country, people are shocked to find that they have to put on a coat and turn the heating up. Motorists are forced to scrape ice from their windscreens before they can drive to work.
Experts describe the cold weather as “unprecedented’” and there are calls for the Government to do an unspecified “something”. If we get even a few inches of snow, as we saw on Monday, it brings the public transport infrastructure grinding to a halt. Schools close and it becomes compulsory for children to be photographed sledging down hills. The drop in temperature results in a sharp rise in the number of girls wearing Ugg boots, while last winter had the largest amount of people wearing ­violently ­coloured pseudo-Mayan hats since records began.

Summer also brings surprises. The last two summers, though they were washouts, provided new opportunities for people to be surprised by the British weather.Any temperature over 25C is a heatwave, and TfL is forced to issue danger warnings for Tube travellers, with helpful advice to carry a bottle of water. And come bank holiday, everyone has the novel idea of going to the seaside (only to spend the day being surprised at the traffic jams on the M25).In fact, the one weekend when no one at all is ­surprised by the weather is the weekend of the Glastonbury ­festival. If no rain fell on Glastonbury, mud would have to be brought in by the truck-load to ensure tradition continued unabated.

Summer surprises also come in the form of freshly-abandoned dress sense. Women can be seen wearing clothes better suited to clubbing, and men embrace the concept of socks worn with sandals and combat shorts.

Every year, people behave as though it has never been sub-zero or 30C-plus. Every summer the office wit tells us, “If this is global warming, I want more of it,” and every winter the same wit asks waggishly, “Is it cold enough for you?” Are we really so surprised by the weather, or is it just a way of breaking the ice?

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