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{23/06/2012}   Talking about the weather

               We all talk about the weather in the UK.  I would say we complain about it more than we revel in it.  It’s easy conversation if you’re trying to fill a potentially uncomfortable silence, it’s an ice breaker and, most importantly I imagine, it’s something we can all have an opinion on and that we’ve experienced.

                To my horror, in court the other day one side’s counsel, complaining about the conduct of the other side’s witness, announced that the witness had also been “speaking to the transcribers”, which he deemed to be inappropriate.  I felt myself redden and squirm.  Fortunately the judge said she saw nothing wrong with that.  However, wary that any conversations we’d had with the witness would have been recorded, I rapidly thought about what we’d discussed: spellings and, you’ve guessed it, the weather and how hot it was in the court room (despite the frosty atmosphere between the two sides!).  The weather is, or should be, an inoffensive, uncontroversial thing to talk about and in that scenario it saved us sitting in the non-sitting court room in complete uncomfortable silence.

However, of late I feel that the weather has been over-used as a topic of conversation.  It’s been so bad and changeable over the past few months that I have even been in regular, lengthy conversations about it, even down to recalling things like, “Ooo, I remember this time two years ago smearing myself with yogurt, I got that sunburnt”.  While it is good to have a bit of a rant, discussing the weather in such detail will do nothing about it other than make you feel ever more sorry for yourself.

One of the good things about having all this wind, rain, chilliness, etc, is that on the few days it’s been sunny of late, there has been a veritable spring in everyone’s step and lots of cheery Facebook statuses along the lines of, “Wow, I’d forgotten how lovely the sun feels”.  The novelty of sunshine.  In summer.

When someone gets back from holiday, what are the questions you’re most likely to ask?  I reckon the weather is definitely in the top three.  Why on earth are we so utterly obsessed with it, other than as a conversation starter or ice breaker?  I do find it kind of interesting.  It being changeable is a feature of the UK.  On the few occasions it happens that you walk between rain and no rain, I find that amazing.  Or that there will be a thunder storm where I am but hot sun where the person I’m on the phone to is sitting.  It’s uncontrollable, unpredictable and of consideration to what we wear every day.

I moved to Japan in late winter.  Everyone there warned me that one day – I reiterate “one day” – it would become summer.  From that day until the day you left your house when it became winter, it would be hot, day and night.  There would be rain.  But it would be hot.  One day, I remember opening the door of our flat and being hit by a wall of heat.  And there it was, summer had begun.  It was horrible, a big sweaty horribleness to me, but at least you knew where you were:  cool clothing, ideally that would cope with the sweat, for outdoors and wintery cardigans for indoors because of the icy air conditioning being pumped out of every possible indoor space, public transport to shops.  But little variety in conversation, “Blimey, isn’t it hot”, or “Wow, we really needed that rain, didn’t we?”

Maybe, in fact probably, the weather really is part of the culture and character of our island nation and our cultural identity.  It’s going to be unpredictable because we are an island, in fact quite a few islands, and maybe having a common interest amidst such a diverse population is something to be celebrated.  After all, when there are floods and other dramatic and devastating weather activities, people always seem to be united, with stories of rescues and people pulling together.

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