Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Martha Kearney's week

By Martha Kearney
Presenter, BBC Radio 4's World at One

My favourite email this week came from a listener who said "One of your speakers has just talked about the worst snow in eighteen years. My son just piped up - it's the best snow in eighteen years."

Vehicles on the southbound carriage of the M1 in Northamptonshire
Snow brought disruption to roads

There was certainly plenty of fun to be had in the Big Freeze. I had to walk into BBC TV Centre on Monday morning at seven o'clock which took an hour and a quarter but there were some beautiful sights along the way.

Shepherds Bush Green, normally the most urban of city parks, sandwiched between busy roads, looked like a village green.

Even that early in the morning people had been building snowmen though some had a twist. One I saw sported a holster and gun. In Shepherds Bush even the snowmen are tooled up.

But there has been a big downside across the country as so many businesses have been hit by staff failing to get to work.

The Federation of Small Businesses predicted it could cost 1.2bn. In London no buses were running and very few underground trains.

'Hair raising'

I challenged the mayor, Boris Johnson, about this on Monday. In his own inimitable style, he told me: "We gritted, we grut, we grat to the best of our ability but this was the worst snow in London for decades."

He argued that it would be impossible to have enough snowploughs to cope with this level of snowfall.

Privately though in the mayor's office there is frustration with many local councils who, they believe, did not do enough to keep the smaller roads open around the depots.

One expert in European law told us that it is illegal under EU and British law to discriminate on the grounds of nationality

Boris Johnson himself did make it into work - "I came in by bicycle. It was a little hair raising at some points but it can be done."

That led me to attempt a joke at the end of the interview (which annoyed several listeners) when I said "Thank you very much, Boris, on your bike, thank you very much."

One immense cause of frustration this week has been the closure of schools which meant many parents had to stay off work.

One head teacher recalled for us that he had battled to get to classes in the Seventies and even ended up being towed from a ditch.

Salt mines

Chris Howard from the National Association of Head Teachers admitted that perhaps we had all gone a bit soft but that this was a problem for the whole country and not just teachers.

He also said that some schools were worried about health and safety, fearing that they would get sued by parents if children fell over in icy playgrounds.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls dismissed that as nonsense. He told me that he had a huge amount of understanding for parents but that local authorities had been doing the right thing.

Snowplough at work in Exeter
Some councils say they are running short on grit

On Wednesday's programme we looked at the problem of salting the roads and how many local authorities are running out of supplies.

Peter Sherratt from the Salt Association maintained that he had warned councils in the autumn to stock up.

There is apparently plenty of salt underground but it would take a while to extract. I had wanted to despatch a reporter to the salt mines but an editor told me that was too Stalinist.

We also covered prime minister's questions as usual from Westminster where the battleground was Gordon Brown's controversial pledge of British Jobs for British workers.

The Lincolnshire industrial dispute was finally resolved this week with the promise of a number of jobs reserved for British workers. It is possible that may unravel, however.

One expert in European law told us that it is illegal under EU and British law to discriminate on the grounds of nationality. As the recession continues, we are bound to see more industrial action on these grounds.

The end of my week is a charity quiz which I help organise where teams of journalists compete against each other.

The theme we had picked for The Ultimate News Quiz is one from the Second World War - "Keep Calm and Carry On".

Originally that had referred to the credit crunch but as I gaze over the weather forecasts, it has taken on a whole new meaning.

Fingers crossed that enough people make it - on their bike or not.

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