The impending winter doom to be wrought by the horribly tabloid ‘Beast from the East’ got me thinking about how fragile we’ve become as a nation.
The merest hint of winter and we’re advised to batten down the hatches and hibernate until the latest ‘Snowmageddon’ passes through.
Trains come to a standstill, buses stop running, planes are grounded and many roads are only passable with the greatest of care.
And vital services are decimated.
Is a snowstorm in winter really such an extraordinary event?
Is it really acceptable for the country to grind to a halt – both socially and economically – as a result?
Other countries that more regularly deal with extraordinary weather events seem to cope better than we do.
I travelled to Norway recently and I got the distinct impression that being snowed in at home was unlikely to wash as an excuse for not turning up to work.
And I have friends and family in Canada who report a similar attitude there, even when the weather outside is truly frightful, as it has been in recent weeks.
Perhaps it is a matter of attitude and preparation.
In Norway I spent the best part of two days touring about in a car. There was snow lying at the roadside and frozen lakes dotted across the landscape but not a single roadway – or even section – was ungritted or out of commission and our ferry ran to time.
Private citizens also took personal responsibility by having shovels and snow chains available or full winter tyres on their cars.
It was a matter of course and made the act of coping with bad weather so much simpler for everyone.
But why does it matter if we all hunker down in our cosy homes to ride out the worst of the storm?
After all, snowball fights, sledging and making snowmen with the kids is undoubtedly an attractive alternative to sitting at a desk for hours on end.
But during the last big freeze in 2010, UK output took a battering – with the final quarter of the year seeing a 0.5% contraction against an anticipated flat performance in normal conditions.
At the time, conservative estimates put the cost of the bad weather to the UK at £1bn per day. The cost of a less severe winter spell was put at around £470 million per day.
Costs will spiral again this week as ‘The Beast’ takes it toll. But when the thaw comes, perhaps we should all look at how prepared we are for what is an all-too-foreseeable eventuality.