Why Talking About the Weather is More Than a National Pastime

“Rain! Whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones, and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains.” said Henry Ward Beecher. Beecher describes rain in its most grand and poetic form but unfortunately we are experiencing once again that the rain does not always like to use its soft architectural hands. The grey skies of Britain have opened to let through more droplets of devastating water, harmless in small numbers yet deadly en masse.

Britain has always been known for its sporadic and unseasonable weather. There can be no guarantees of a tangible summer and even though our country is relatively tiny compared to more stable countries weather wise, winter is by no means a blanket temperature either. A nation with a shared national pastime of chatting about the weather ensures that a summer storm can quickly become the talk of the day.

I disagree when people criticise weather talk as an excuse to replace interesting conversation with the unimaginative. Far from the stiff British upper lip, chatting about sudden drops in temperature and beyond average precipitation belies a characteristically soft and naïve centre.

The British never cease to be surprised at the unseasonable climate and it is not with politeness but with genuine awe that office workers stare out of their high rise windows in unison, listening to the crack of thunder and watching the audacity of the furious monsoon rain down around them. ‘How dare it rain in summer?’ They think to themselves. No one comes in smiling from winter sunshine thoroughly cheered without wanting to share it with the inhabitants indoors, the seemingly minor event will warrant at least a few seconds of recognition and genuine grateful smiles that today you didn’t have to wear a coat.

Few people actually use the weather to reach out in an attempt to exude some kind of false mass empathy. The empathy is real and it is in admitting that the normality of changeable weather actually affects our moods enough to comment that we show our humanity.

Not an excuse for more complaining and grumbling either, good weather warrants just as many comments as the bad…with a few notable exceptions.

This week residents of areas under flood watch and their home insurance companies have been sitting in the tightest space possible. It will be guaranteed that the rest of the nation will sit gripped as our prestigious British news channels employ the national anomaly in their main reports.

This is the altogether more sinister side of cozy Britain. The gale battered hills and creaky old trees, the swollen rivers and the freezing mountains that were once witnesses of the packs of ravenous wolves, roaming wild boar and bears that walked the land. Imagine these creatures on a wild and windy night and you will find your surroundings would still be a fitting landscape for such long gone creatures.

Weather is just a reminder that whatever we do and however we develop the land there is still something that can’t be tamed. The wolves and bears may have been contained but weather refuses to give in to anyone’s frustrations. With every home comfort possible in a western world we are still fascinated by the one thing that defies convenience, revealing much more than an excuse for polite conversation.

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