But for many this year, the harpings back to childhood frivolities were brought to a shuddering end with the announcement, ‘all services are cancelled’.
As the North-west of the country wondered what all the fuss was about, anybody south of Watford marveled at newscasters’ inability to measure the depth of snow – ten inches? If there were only ten inches in Kent, I must be a Borrower and our front door must be a cat flap… at one point, we nearly sent out Lassie to make sure that one of the directors of a well-known character costume company hadn’t disappeared in an unexpected flurry of snow; and it would have taken Gimley with an army of Oompah Loompahs to dig out our car.
The snook of climate change protestors was well and truly cocked as the only people able to navigate the roads to Birmingham drove by in their 4x4s, ermine-lined gloves to the fore whilst wearing a suitably smug expression and asking the inevitable, ‘are you feeling warmer yet?’ In fact, our cat was the only other creature to wear a wry smile as he spotted the silver lining in the cloud of his ‘minor operation’, realizing that he no longer gets two lumps in his throat when he squats in the snow.
Mentions of the impact on one of the industry’s biggest trade events were notably absent from the national media as the BBC Breakfast team displayed a nose for cutting-edged journalism by rushing to sculpt a snow teapot in the Blue Peter garden. It was rumoured that many of the investigative journalists on the satellite channels hadn’t realised it was snowing and ITV set out to measure the volume of snow in units of Eamonn Holmes.
Then the inevitable happened… just as things were starting to get back to normal and the apology emails had been sent out to Spring Fair clients, the news channels started to wheel out recent arrivals to Britain from places just south of the Arctic Circle to complain that the country came to a standstill with a ‘little bit of snow’.
But Britain was never meant to cope with snow like this. Our country is twice as densely populated as Germany, four times more than France and 12 times more than the US. It only takes a couple of people who’ve not driven in snow before and they could wipe out the equivalent population of a major Swedish city in a scene reminiscent of the time Wes Craven was asked to play Lemmings. We ‘don’t get’ weather like this in Britain… that’s why we invented cricket, not Biathlon.
But while the Grangemouth protestors froze rapidly into a permanent Anthony Gormley exhibit, we must spare a thought for any of the stand-holders who suffered lost business as a result of the snow. The show organisers struggled valiantly on but inevitably, opportunities were lost and, with the exhibition acting as the biggest sales opportunity in the calendar of many small companies, it was the worst possible start to an already difficult year.
But not only did the difficulty of travel affect those people in industries clearly associated with licensing. There are innumerable related industries which suffered great harm in the snow too – the shareholders of brewers, distillers, vineyards and late-night karaoke bars will be counting the cost for years to come and the owners of the finest tap-rooms and taverns within a thirty mile radius of Birmingham gathered in mutual disquiet at the lack of trade. The local hotel managers shook their heads in worry as their staff rushed to remove the unused temporary bed-spring lumps in preparation for the arrival of peak season guests and all bar the finest (read most expensive) places in the Midlands tried valiantly to persuade their kitchen staff that Continental in the context of breakfast should indicate freshness in their baked goods, not a direct relationship with a global tyre company.
Thankfully, towards the end of the week as the industry prepared for the onslaught of Nuremburg the travel chaos started to ease. As the inevitable melt began, commuters thronged to their stations with the wide-eyed enthusiasm and naïve hope of a recent entrant to the Big Brother household: the services would be better, they would be on time, they’d be reasonably priced with seats for all. The driver would realise their passengers were dressed up against the cold and would not blast out the heating from a system which would no longer melt a patch of skin on the calf of their legs whilst still leaving their fingers prone to frostbite. Every child on every platform would display courteousness and an enthusiasm for the product licensed the previous year by said commuting licensing professional. Retirees would stop using lunchtime as a convenient opportunity to rush to the banks and post offices and local councils would provide an itemised bill to show what great value for money their constituents get in exchange for their taxes.
Will the opportunity for this great spring re-birth be overlooked in the mad scramble to licence brands onto items of snow-clearing equipment? Quite probably, but at least a character-branded petrol-powered snow blower should help to clear away the blues as the licensing world emerges from its frosty duvet.