Friday, July 19, 2013

What's it like where you are?

What Would David Bowie Do? finds itself in sultry Atlanta, Georgia, for the wedding of the genial Chip Bates and his lovely fiancée Ali Mattson. The temperature here today is expected to reach a high of 88F or, in new money, around 31C.

So far, however, I haven't seen any alarm. The National Guard is not out on the street, President Obama has not so far addressed the nation, and the National Weather Service isn't reporting anything more alarming than: "Severe weather will be possible as a cold front begins to move out of Canada towards the East Coast. The Storm Prediction Center has highlighted an area of Slight Risk from the Midwest to New England. The primary risk with any severe weather will be damaging wind gusts as storms develop into a line feature along and ahead of the front. Hail and tornadoes will be also be possible with some storms."

In Britain, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding through the nation's shires. The mercury has been reaching into the 30s, people are complaining on social media that it"hot" and what are we going to do about it.

The Met Office has issued a "Level 3 Heatwave Alert", which is the weather forecaster equivalent of DefCon 2 (we're talking Cuban Missile Crisis here people). Everyone is getting, well, hot under the collar about getting hot under the collar. In Cornwall, a seaside branch of Tescos has put up a sign asking shoppers to stay clothed to avoid causing offence: “In stores such as this one which are close to the beach, we ask that customers wear a T-shirt and shoes." What, and nothing else? Euggghhhh....

We Brits do not do extremes of weather well. We're an island nation, predisposed to repel all attacks - whether from Vikings, the French or from unnatural weather we normally associate with foreign parts. We happily spend two weeks a year on a beach in the Med, gradually turning a cross between the Polish flag and lobster thermidor, and put up with it being "quite toasty" (seeking shelter in a pub offering Full English and Sky Sports), and yet when the sun stays out for longer than two days on the home front we declare a national emergency.

In winter, when it is supposed to get cold, we complain bitterly if it snows. And then, when summer jumps us from behind, because, thanks to global warming, we didn't get a spring this year, we are outraged, and jam the Daily Mail's switchboard to complain.

The odd thing is that summer is actually quite predictable, usually forming in the northern hemisphere in the middle of the year, and being associated with more sunshine. Yes, even in the UK. So maybe we've listened to all those cruel taunts by foreigners - especially American tourists - that we don't expect the sun in the summer. Maybe all those gags about the rain have affected our ability to enjoy the sunshine at home?

Nah. It really doesn't matter what the weather is, we'd still find something to complain about. It's what defines us as British.

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