If asked, I imagine most other nationalities would describe the British as a nation of tea-swillers, roast beef-guzzlers and queue-lovers with a somewhat unhealthy weather obsession. This is not an entirely unmerited description: I take my own tea-bags on holiday “just in case”, I am definitely partial to an all-the-trimmings Sunday roast, I fully subscribe to “quetiquette” (my word for queue etiquette) as do all self-respecting Brits and not a day passes without at least ten comments on today’s weather and quite possibly two or three more in-depth conversations/analyses of current weather systems affecting the UK.
People from other parts of the world seem to find our obsession with the weather quite incomprehensible. Why are we so fascinated with our weather? I’ll tell you why…because our weather is fascinating, extraordinary, endlessly changeable and often downright bizarre. It’s time the rest of the world appreciated the Great British weather and how worthy it is of our national fixation.
In the ten minutes since I started writing this, the sun has been out (and gone again), the wind is gusting and now it is pouring with rain - that is a fairly typical ten minute weather cross-section for this country. In the last 24 hours, Scotland and the North have had snowfall of which any Alpine resort would be proud whilst the rest of the country has been battered by gale-force winds. All in a day’s work for the British weather.
Just to be clear, although we can see all four seasons in one day, it does not mean that we are good at coping with the vagaries of our weather. Inevitably, for example, a few centimetres of snow brings the entire country to a halt: schools close (”health and safety”), people bunk off work (“totally snowed in”), train schedules descend into chaos (“wrong sort of snow on the line”) and hundreds of people stuck on motorways over night with their tales of camaraderie and thermos flask-sharing (although I suspect that secretly they rather enjoy the experience and possibly, dare I say it, seek it out…?) It is no wonder we are the laughing stock of other countries that deal with ten times the amount of snow we do without any problem whatsoever.
However, can I just point out to those rolling in the aisles at the Brits’ inability to cope with the odd flurry of snow, that we live in a country which has to deal with so many different weather permutations that it is just not feasible for us to invest in the infrastructure required for each and every one. Yes, Canada, Switzerland, Austria and the like, if we had snow all winter and hot summers, then we too could cope magnificently with both but as it is we are coping with snow, sleet, ice, rain, hail, wind, gales, thunder, lightening, sun, cold, heat and fog in any one year (and often any one day!)
The weather in the UK almost always makes the headlines in some way or other every single day of the year. Bet that doesn’t happen in other parts of the world – eh, Dubai? Take today for example, I have just heard the news headlines and it would appear that the gales last night have knocked a fence down and a wolf, yes a wolf, has escaped in Berkshire. You couldn’t make it up. Not to downplay the obvious danger of a wolf rampaging through the Home Counties, it has cheered up a rather dull mid-January day immensely.
I think it is time we celebrated British weather. I would certainly miss the seasons if we didn’t have them – endless blue skies all year round might sound attractive to sun-starved Brits in January but would it not just get a little bit boring? It is thanks to our weather that we get the joys of spring, the long, lazy days of summer, the beauty of autumn colours and the excitement of a bit of winter snow. Perhaps that’s with my rose-tinted glasses on but I would miss the change of seasons. If I had the power to shift it all around a bit, I have to admit I would make winter shorter, forgo the UK’s “fifty shades of grey” days and ensure three months of good summer sun every year with no need for an August “wet weather plan”. Then I think the British weather would be pretty perfect.
To update you on the weather since I started writing this, we have just experienced a rather random and violent hailstorm and now gone full circle with the reappearance of blue skies and watery sunshine. Nothing unusual there. Well, the hail was a little bit of a curveball…but expect the unexpected! Do you now see why we talk about it all the time?