In the village shop yesterday morning, the volume from the local radio
seemed slightly louder than usual. A reporter was intoning with barely
suppressed excitement news of some momentous happening and promising
‘updates’ throughout the day. Whenever they allude to ‘updates’, you
know they think they’re on to something.
Had the president-elect been involved in an unfortunate accident so soon before his inauguration? Did Brexit no longer mean Brexit? Had Farage’s new career as a phone-in host unexpectedly bombed? It is strange how much wishful thinking the brain is able to process before it connects with prosaic reality.
It was only the winter. It had arrived. Not here. Here we had only the wind. But a few miles inland, and across much of the country, the serene flat and grey of January had been succeeded by the familiar chaos. And again it had come as a huge surprise, as if we had never experienced this thing called winter before.
Schools that had reopened three days earlier were closing again; any possibility that the pupils could walk a short distance through three inches of snow had sensibly been ruled out on health and safety grounds. Airports in the south of England had cancelled hundreds of flights ‘in anticipation’ (and in the apparent absence of new technology to keep runways operational). Rail services were said to be ‘on a knife edge’. The inevitable overturned lorry had closed the Forth bridge for the foreseeable future. Cockbridge to Tomintoul was impassable to anyone fool enough to want to go to Tomintoul. The Arran ferry? It was scarcely necessary to ask. But have no fear: ‘our boys’ were standing by for evacuation purposes.
Bob Dylan, in one of his more coherent announcements, said that there was no need for weather forecasts. According to Bob, you could tell the weather by looking out of your window. There’s something in that. We don’t need Carol in a furry number, or some idiotic gesticulating hack in green wellies, to tell us what we can see or imagine for ourselves.
But there’s no point in hoping for sardonic weariness in the reporting of this annual apocalypse. We have yet to recruit a real-life equivalent of Bill Murray, the grouchy weather man in ‘Groundhog Day’, who had predicted it all before and went on predicting it for most of the film, before he fell in love with his gorgeous producer and became a nice person.
The characters in Jane Austen’s novels were once wittily defined as ‘people in whose lives a fall of snow is an event’. Pathetic, really. But how much more pathetic are we. Short of nuclear war, we have invented weather ‘bombs’ – the word itself symbolic of the deep human urge for self-destruction – and storms with human names attached to them. Already this winter we have experienced the fury of that nice girl Barbara, who was followed by the unprepossessing Conor. Some disruptive Asbo type beginning with D will be along this weekend, you bet.
Meanwhile, if you want to know the names of the only two serious newspapers left in Britain, simply check this morning’s front pages for the ones without any weather on them. You should not be surprised to learn that they are called the Guardian and the Financial Times.