June 01, 2009

On the British weather...

Picture courtesy of Athena's pix
Released under a Creative Commons Attribution license

It has to be said that the British are obsessed with the weather. Being a relatively small island (in the big scheme of things) our weather is both changeable and unpredictable. Therefore it is a frequent topic of conversation. The one thing that can be said about the British weather with a level of assurance is that it is 'mild'. We don't tend to have extremes of hot and cold like, say, some of the American midwest towns, but neither do we have levels of predictability for weather like, say, Australia.

The fact of the matter is that Britain is a mild, reasonably wet island attacked by weather from both continental Europe, Scandinavia and the Atlantic. The gulf stream which surrounds the westerly sides of the country warms the water sufficiently that we don't get weather so cold it freezes the water (Liverpool is on the same latitude as Goose Bay in Canada. They regularly freeze over, we never do) and generally makes out winters less severe than some of our European neighbours.

I worked with a mid-west born manager by the name of Steve a number of years ago. He was a good ol' boy from central Indiana. Born and bred there, he barely left the state. Whilst a lot of his opinions were very parochial and a little 'twee' he did say one thing which I kind of identified with. "You know, Gary," he said "I couldn't live in England because I like to be in a country where the seasons are different. I like a good winter followed by a nice summer".

The reason I brought this up is because we have been having a spell of warm weather here in England recently and it seems to be following the pattern dictated by the meteorologists. They stated that the summer would be 'Warm but with some heavy rain storms'. This contrasts with last summer which was 'Heavy rain but with some light sun bursts'. A summer like this is generally a two edged sword though. The nice weather means that outdoor events such as the ICC World Twenty-20 Cricket, Glastonbury, The Ashes and Wimbledon will not be rained off, whereas everyone in England knows that if we have more than 1 week of consecutive hot weather the water companies start warning about droughts and threatening to put us all on standpipes to get our water (It has happened many times, most noticeably in the "Great drought of '76" when people were almost reduced to drinking their own urine to survive¹). Britain even has an Emergency Drought Order which allows the water companies to cut supplies to houses and force the use of Standpipes.

Nevertheless I think we must all be thankful that the weather is looking to be a bit warmer here in Britain. Being of Irish extraction and thus fair skinned I, personally, will not be venturig out into the sun too often - bright red skin doesn't become me at all - but I dare say it will stop people talking about the weather we're having this summer and move them onto some other topic of conversation - such as "Will we have to pay for this nice summer with an awful winter?"

¹Of course people weren't reduced to drinking their own urine. This was an attempt at humour. Drinking your own urine is not recommended. Apparently.


  1. As an occasional cricketer (depression and cricket are not good bedfellows) I would venture to suggest that very hot weather can be a problem, certainly at anything other than elite level.

    Unlike Football or many other sports; games of cricket can last four or five hours and for half this time you are standing in the searing heat.

    I always welcome a nice cloudy but bright day over sun. Especially when in the field.

    I'm sure you agree, but that was my immediate feeling on reading your piece.

    to those wondering why depression and cricket don't mix; Cricket is a game of, above all, concentration. When a ball is coming at you at 75-90mph, you'd better not be distracted by anything else!

  2. Thank goodness the occurrence of very hot weather in the UK is an exception rather than the rule - although you do have to wonder how the Windies, India and Pakistan deal with their weather. Used to it, I expect