This week's UK news: 6 February, 2009
6 February 2009

Winter weather takes UK by surprise - even though it was forecast

Unusually heavy snowfalls brought almost the whole of the UK to a halt during this week. Schools were closed for up to three days, and as roads and railway lines were blocked thousands of people failed to get into work.

But since it is almost 20 years since most of the country has seen such deep snow (some areas had up to eight inches, or around 20 centimetres) many people made the most of it. Sledges were pulled out of attics, and anything flat was dragged to the nearest slope for hours of fun. Snowmen were built everywhere.

British people also like to complain about how inefficient we are, and there were lots of grumbles that transport had failed and schools were closed. London buses, which ran throughout the last war, were stuck in their garages. As the week went on, and snow kept on falling, there were worries that the grit mixture used to make icy roads safer was running out. Motorists in Devon, caught in a blizzard, had to be rescued from their cars. One teenage girl died on a sledge made from a car roof.

But children - many of whom had never seen real snow - were ecstatic. Click here to see pictures and stories of the snow

Homeowners get a nice surprise from the bank

One of the things which is unusual about the UK compared with many other countries is that most people want to buy, rather than rent, their homes. Problems in the economy and falling house prices often go together - which is why many home owners who bought recently are very unhappy at the moment, as their houses and flats are worth less than they paid for them.

But some cheered up this week as they learned that they would not be paying any interest on their home loan. One bank had offered customers a home loan (mortgage) at an interest rate which would stay one per cent lower than the official national interest rate. This week, the Bank of England lowered that rate to one per cent - so 1,500 home owners have an interest-free loan for the time being.

Television channel scores own goal

The main commercial television channel infuriated viewers this week when it took an advertising break three minutes before the end of extra time in a football match - and missed the scoring of the only goal.

The chairman of ITV ended up apologising for the mistake on a news bulletin after millions of viewers missed Everton scoring in their FA Cup match against Liverpool. Viewers were even more angry because the rest of the game had been so dull.

Another big football story was the news that former Manchester United player David Beckham is keen to stay in Milan rather than return to the Los Angeles Galaxy team. He has said he enjoys playing in Italy, and that he hopes it would boost of his chance of being involved with the England team in the 2010 World Cup.

Nurse almost loses her job over a prayer

A nurse was suspended from her job after offering to pray for an elderly lady she was treating at home.

The lady, who was surprised but not offended by the offer, mentioned it to another member of the medical staff and disciplinary action began against the nurse, Caroline Petrie. Mrs Petrie had previously been warned when she gave a small home-made prayer card to another patient.

She has been told that her professional code means she must not promote causes which are not related to health, and was eventually told she could return to her job.

New health regulations appear to say that health staff could be disciplined if they talk about religion to colleagues or patients. Religion is sometimes controversial in the UK, because it is a multiracial society and there is a desire not to offend members of different faiths or nonbelievers.


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