Saturday, 25 April 2015

Lost in Translation : Talking about the weather

Us Froggies, we have some pre-conceptions about the British. One is that they drink a lot of tea, another that they talk constantly about the weather. Both are correct. Whilst I still don’t fully understand the tea bit, I understand the bit about the weather.

I really really do.
I really really wish I didn’t.

There was an advert a couple of years ago. Some guys were put in a pod-thing to experience all kinds of weather, from “Turkish delight”, to “Dutch Drizzle”, to the worst weather of all, “English summer”.

I’m not laughing.

Not funny.

So, why do the British (and I) talk constantly about the weather? The reasons are two-fold.

First, it IS really interesting. My step-father-in-law, who is an endless font of titbits, says that in Britain (unlike everywhere else in the world, apparently), it is impossible to predict the weather more than a couple of days in advance, even within the usual wide margin of error allowed the weather forecast. They are not being cautious. They just can’t. Changes are that fast, and that radical.

So what if it’s August?! Who said the weather had to be summery just because the month is? 8ยบC, that’ll do for you, England!

So when someone says “what a lovely day today!” it’s not a boring statement of fact. No, no! There is an element of delighted surprise, of course, but also a dash of uneasy excitement. We are waiting, shifting from foot to foot. Lovely day! Will it change? Will it stay? We don’t know! Aaaaah!

The weather, it keeps you on your toes! For real!

The second reason we talk about the weather is because we need encouragement. We are trauma-victims, wandering about under a maddeningly grey sky, saying in a slightly manic high-pitched voice, “looks like it’s going to rain!”  This, in one sentence, is another human being reaching out to you, sharing your pain and giving you a pat on the back.

Putting a brave face (and some balloons) on it.

And rain is not bad news, by the way! I’ve got wellies, a cool rain-coat and plenty of umbrellas, as well as hats and hoods when the wind is too strong for an umbrella. Rain? Bring it on!

Bring it on!

It’s not too cold either, maybe a couple of degrees lower than Paris, a few more as you go further north, but no dramatic difference. It can get really cold some winters, but just like anywhere.

No, the real killer is the endless grey. And no, Annie, the sun will NOT come out tomorrow, you can’t promise me that, you spoilt New-York-dwelling brat! Because quite likely it won’t, nor the day after, or the one after that. We will even forget what the sun even LOOKS like when despair grips our PTSD-addled minds as we reach day 10 of homogenous-what-time-of-the-day-is-it-I-don’t-even-know-or-care-anymore grey. 

Death by grey

And yet, you don’t know, because maybe, in an hour, it will all change. And you will miss it, because the baby will be sleeping or something. Blink, and it’s gone. Don’t even blink.

But you see, when it is sunny again, the exhilarating blue sky against the quaint rows of red-brick houses will trick us into signing up for another year.


  1. I never lived in England but that sounds like Paris a lot. Once I was out in the park and my 18 month old kept pointing at the sky in surprise, and I finally understood he had not seen that much blue sky before that day.

    1. As a former Parisian, I have to object. Paris is rainy, but Britain is on a whole other level of wet and grey! ;-)