Thirty Thousand Streets

Thursday, July 30, 2009

'Barbecue Summer'

Has anyone else noticed that the met office is, well, a bit shit? As meteorologists never tire of telling us, theirs is an 'inexact science' which is sort of fair enough, but in which case, can you hold off on the press releases anticipating a 'barbecue' summer, which as I glance out of the window at the default grey, rainy, humid July English weather, patently hasn't manifested.

Googling 'barbecue summer' I get lots of by now rather silly looking news items from around April, like this one from The Torygraph, where we're treated to a picture of some sizzling meat (presumably a visual metaphor for the British Isles) and the sub-head:

"Britain is expected to bask in a hot and dry summer with temperatures regularly reaching 86F (30C), forecasters have predicted."

Along with this statement from an expert, qualifying the whole 'barbecue' bit with the strangely disconcerting delivery of a GCSE science teacher attempting to channel empathy at his bemused charges.

"The thing I remember about last summer was not getting the barbecue out. Not sitting on the terrace with a nice glass of wine or camping. People didn't do that very much last summer. In terms of the misery index it was right down the bottom.

"So we felt this year, especially with all the bad news around, we thought we have a good news story."

Aw, thanks guys. Shame it was bollocks though, eh? I'd have preferred it if you'd told me the events in Babe: Pig in the City were real – finding out that wasn't true would just mean I could start eating bacon again rather than frantically attempting to book last minute flights off this storm lashed rock we call home.

(To be fair, they did also attach a caveat to this press release saying there was only a two in three chance of this actually happening, and there was hence a good chance they were completely incorrect, but isn't this in itself a bit... rubbish?)

Amongst other news articles, there were also typically hysterical cautions about the soaring rates of skin skin cancer we could expect from the anticipated withering heatwave (the chance would be a fine thing) compared to which today's story about exposure to sunbeds posing a similar health risk seems decidedly sheepish.

This fallability would seem to be true of most weather sources though, the weather 'predictions' on my iPhone seeming to perform more in the manner of a live Twitter feed, only delivering live blow-by-blow (literally, given the wind) updates on the weather, as it actually happens, with any accuracy, by which time I generally know already, thanks. At all other times the 5-day forecast seems in a state of constant flux, the meteorological glyphs shifting according to who knows what arcane pattern.

I guess my beef is this: if modern scientific weather forecasts are as subject to chaos as this, then what's the fricken point? we might as well revert to casting the runes or examining the livers of sacrificed animals – at least that way we get something for the fabled barbie if it does turn out alright.

But weathermen (and women) if you are to persist with your modern ways, here is my suggestion: At the end of Spring, when a crowd gathers round your hut in the forest, wondering how the weather will turn out, simply announce:

"honestly? it'll probably be rubbish, and we'll get one really hot Saturday sometime in mid June, then it'll be Autumn"

That way, nobody gets disappointed, and if the sun does decide to put his hat on, it's just a bonus. Everyone's happy! No-one'll take you seriously, but you'll probably be right the majority of the time. Go on. Take one for the team if you're so eager to please.

All this said, the forecasters are now predicting rain in August, so expect a sub-Saharan heatwave any time now...

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