A few months ago, a group of students in Oslo produced a brilliant spoof video that lampooned the charity pop song genre. It showed a group of young Africans coming together to raise money for those of us freezing in the north. "A lot of people aren't aware of what's going on there right now," says the African equivalent of Bob Geldof. "People don't ignore starving people, so why should we ignore cold people? Frostbite kills too. Africa: we need to make a difference." The song – Africa for Norway – has been watched online two million times, making it one of Europe's most popular political videos.
The aim was to send up the patronising, cliched way in which the West views Africa. Norway can afford to make the joke because there, people don't tend to die of the cold. In Britain, we still do. Each year, an official estimate is made of the "excess winter mortality" – that is, the number of people dying of cold-related illnesses. Last winter was relatively mild, and still 24,000 perished. The indications are that this winter, which has dragged on so long and with such brutality, will claim 30,000 lives, making it one of the biggest killers in the country. And still, no one seems upset.