This capital, accustomed to mild if mostly sunless winters, is digging out from under the biggest blizzard and iciest winds in 15 years.
The bad weather here is part of a severe storm -- the worst in more than 40 years in some areas -- that has taken 47 deaths across Europe. Athens had its first snowfall in years today and more snow is expected in mush of Europe.
Only 2 1/2 inches of snow have fallen here so far. But Londoners, bundled in fur hats, fur coats and woolly scarves, are behaving as if it was the blizzard of '88.
Cars jam the side streets, buried under small drifts, ice-bound to curbs. Few homes here boast shovels so steps and walkways are treacherous.
The joggers have fled from Hyde Park, the city's green lung, now mantled in white. But the occasional skier can be spotted, pushing along with only some forlorn sparrows for company.
Up on Hampstead Heath, a neighborhood for comfortable writers and artists, the pends have frozen over. Three young men broke through the ice last night and the waters froze over them before help arrived.
Elsewhere in Britain, the snow is impressive by any standards. Ten inches fell near Manchester and drifts in Scotland have reached 10 feet.
Britons are supposed to take disaster phlegmatically, with stiff upper lip. Many of the stiff upper lips, however, are simply frozen. When they thaw, they complain.
Among the biggest grousers are the million or so who lost their bets in the weekly football pools. Some 24 league soccer games were canceled on Saturday -- as well as 43 of 46 on New Year's day -- and this wiped out many selectors.
Rupert Murdoch's daily Sun insisted the bettors should have been given a second chance and that their treatment was a "scandal."
Both the Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association accused the government of failing motorists by depriving local councils of funds for needed snow removal equipment.
The auto clubs' complaint has brought a swift if confusing rebuttal from Denis Howell, the minister of environment responsible for dealing with disaster. "Staff and nonsense," he says. "We offered the local councils more money. You can't waste funds on equipment you use once in 15 years. The local authorities have 'coped very well.' And I am investigating."
Howell is being termed the abominable snowman.
The protests from car drivers are nothing to the outrage of airlines, particularly the American ones. London's chief airport, Heathrow, was closed 18 hours over the weekend because it could mobilize only one snowplow and one sand spreader for burried runways.
A Pan Am spokesman said, "The whole operation was pathetic." A TWA man asked, "Why does a little bit of snow always take the British Airports Authority by surprise? They should send someone to Chicago to see how to get rid of it."
Prime Minister James Callaghan was victimized by the weather tonight. His limousine broke down just as he was trying to catch a train. Cab travelers could hear a radio taxi summoned for the stranded Callaghan. The driver was sternly instructed to ask him when the promised rate increase would take place.
This is a nation of sentimental animal lovers, and TV screens have been filled with scenes of sad sheep in the Highlands, struggling to escape from huge drifts.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has issued a special appeal to leave kitchen scraps, nuts or bird food on the lawn as "bread is not really enough."
The plight of Suzy Wong, a killer whale in a dolpinarium on the pier at Clacton, attracted attention. A 60-foot wave almost destroyed the pier. But Suzy Wong was rescued in time and trucked off to a "safari park" near Windsor Castle.
Inevitably, trains were canceled. Motorists stalled. Buses broke down. All this should have provided a grand excuse to stay home. But most Britons had already enjoyed a 10-day break, from the weekend before Christmas through New Year's Day. So many made genuine efforts to come back yesterday. British Leyland, Ford Motor Co. and other big industries put absenteeism at 20 percent or less.
Workers will need the income. Wholesalers in Covent Garden are already paying four times their pre-Christmas prices for carrots, Brussel sprouts and other snow-buried staples of the British diet.
The storm and the below-freezing temperatures here are still mild compared to the blasts elsewhere in northern Europe. But that is little comfort to Britons. The local weatherman is forecasting another icy wind from Siberia and another heavy snowfall in the next day or so all over this island.