Here in England, the weather is about as fundamental to the national character as our schools.
And we are insane about it.
I know, because I am currently writing this in an office that resembles the Marie Celeste. Apart from three of my foolhardy colleagues, the whole place is quieter than Anne Widdecombe’s bed springs, and all because there are about 4 inches of snow outside. Yes, it would appear that anything beyond some mild drizzle throws the whole of London and every one of its inhabitants into total chaos. Buses stop running, trains shut down, offices close, schools send their pupils home. Never mind that in New York – a city that isn’t known for its small town pace of living – Manhattan is often swathed in enough snow to bury all but the tallest of dogs. Do you catch New Yorkers bunking down, drinking nothing but hot chocolate and cancelling work for the next week? Not bloody likely.
And it doesn’t end with the cold. As soon as the British summer temperature nudges above maybe-I-don’t-need-my-cardigan mild, people start to gasp on about heatwaves and people dying in the underground.
It’s quite endearing, really. Here we are in one of the most temperate maritime island climates in the whole of the Northern hemisphere, and yet we throw words like ‘blizzard’, ‘heatwave’, ‘monsoon’ and ‘ice age’ around like it’s going out of fashion. Even in places where we do have cataclysmic weather, like in the flood plains of North Yorkshire, we are still so unprepared for, and surprised by, our own weather that we are often caught wringing our hands in panic as the water swills around our knees.
Now, I have never had to spend a year living in a caravan, waiting for the insurance company to admit that perhaps my entire village didn’t flood because Auntie Alice up the road left her bath running, and that they owe me some money to rebuild my house. So, my view of British weather is more affectionate that it must surely be in places like Rotherham.
But, honestly, if I had the choice between Britain’s occasional meteorolgical insanity or a Southern Californian unrelenting summer, then I’ll take the wellies, thank you.
Now, I’m going to go and see if this blizzard has got so bad I can go home.