Sunday, 8 April 2012
One of the things that foreigners say about British people is that we are obsessed with the weather.
And do you know what? I think they are right.
There is a reason for this obsession – our weather in the British Isles is so crap, so unpredictable, so utterly irritating that it does make a good topic for conversation.
Take the last couple of weeks for example.
Two weeks ago we had unseasonably high temperatures in March; in fact it was the hottest March on record. We were basking in temperatures of 24°C. People throughout the United Kingdom were out in shorts and thoroughly enjoying the warm temperature.
Mrs PM and I walked into Didsbury and sat outside at a local café eating a nice early evening meal with a pint of fine ale; it had a definite continental feel to it. People were walking past in T-shirts and shorts, remarking that we were perhaps, for once, in for a great summer. Sunglasses were ubiquitous and I even heard people talking about using sun block for their kids.
In a little place called Aboyne in the northern reaches of Scotland, they too were enjoying the highest temperatures they had experienced in March.
Fast forward a few days and everything changed.
The temperatures plummeted. In Manchester, having enjoyed 24°C, we suddenly found ourselves waking up to frozen cars and days were the temperature barely scraped 4°C. A huge cloud, weighed down with snow, drifted south depositing several inches over the United Kingdom. The Pennine roads were blocked and impassable; a friend of mine who commutes from Halifax, found himself snowed in.
Aboyne, that pleasant little village in Aberdeenshire that had been basking in the sunshine, now found itself covered in six inches of snow.
And all of this happened in a few days.
Is it any surprise that we are so utterly obsessed with the weather?
The weather forecast is mandatory viewing for most Brits simply because we have no idea what on earth Mother Nature is going to dump on us.
I have in the past seen all four seasons in one day. One June many years ago, I woke up and saw that it was snowing – yes that is correct – snowing in the summer. By midday the snow had turned to rain and in the afternoon we had glorious sunshine.
The weather is that mad.
Nevertheless, we never get extremes. A comedian remarked on TV recently that our weather is rarely so extreme that it is dangerous.
We have had a hurricane – and the weather forecasters failed to predict that – so it caused havoc in the South of England. But that is a very rare event. We don't get cyclones or tornadoes.
We have had a fair temperature range though. The highest recorded temperature in the UK is 38.5 °C with the lowest being -26.1°C.
In my own personal experience, the highest temperature I have encountered in the UK was 35 °C and the lowest about -15 °C.
Of course, outside the UK I have experienced more extremes. The highest temperature I have had to endure was during August in Las Vegas, when the temperature soared to a massive 45°C. I remember the pain involved with that. Walking outside was agonizing and we hotel-hopped down the famous Las Vegas Strip, just so that we could avoid as much of the sun as possible. At one point, Mrs PM and I were waiting for a bus and wilting so much that we just dived into a cab.
Compare that with the lowest temperature I have had to endure; -20 °C in Moscow in Winter. I wore two pairs of socks and a coat that was so big that I looked like the Michelin man. It was so bad that my nose was running and the liquid snot was freezing as soon as it cleared the sanctuary of my nostrils.
And I lost my woolly hat and gloves, thankfully the day before I left. I thought my nose was going to drop off.
We rarely get such extremes in the UK and I am thankful for that. Yes, we have to put up with bizarre weather, damp weather, cloudy dull days, foggy mornings, snow, and rainy summers.
It will be amusing to discover what the British weather has in store for us when the Olympics come to London later this year.
But on those days in late spring, summer and early autumn, when the weather decides to become seasonal and stable and the sun shines on our lovely countryside, with blue skies and big fluffy white clouds, I realise why I love being in Britain.
I still take a coat and an umbrella with me though – because you never know.