NO, I am not going to talk about the weather…
And with that opening statement, just how many of you will now turn the page and flip over to page 32?
But seriously, what is it with people and the fascination with weather forecasts?
It was not until I started to run a local information website, that I realised just how much importance that big ball of fire (or lack of said ball) had on so many people – and our dear friend Facebook pretty much proved it for me.
I shall now digress a bit (as I do) and come back to that a tad later, but contrary to my opening statement, I am actually going to weather-whip you for a bit.
I wanted to try to find out why squillions of us wallow in weather reports; why so many have the need to ‘like’ and ‘share’ every last detail of how freakin’ ‘scorchio’ it will be; why you will need to get your washing in before 4pm; or why ‘the salt trucks are out of stock!’
So why is the weather is so high on our list of fascinations and regular discussions with each other?
And is it really necessary to have 20 or so words for various states of H20 falling from the sky?
So, I poured a strong coffee (yes, coffee… I am typing before gin o’clock today) and set about trying to find out why we love to wallow in weather.
It would appear that the weather section of the news has, indeed, become an enormous staple in most households all over the world, but our weather observatories weren’t actually originally built for such enormous public consumption.
However, the weather is ‘ideally suited to our electronic age’, wrote Bernard Mergen, a professor of American Studies, in his book Weather Matters.
“It’s constantly in motion, frequently fast-moving…ubiquitous and visually beautiful.”
Australians, for example, search online for weather more than they search for sex.
According to Google, by the beginning of 2017, ‘weather’ outstripped ‘sex’ by a ratio of four to one – a trend replicated in several other western countries.
And it’s not just Australians who are obsessed: a survey in the USA found that weather was the most followed topic of local news, ahead of breaking news, politics and crime.
In Brexitland, where the outdoors has never been negotiated without being totally prepared with everything from sun cream to galoshes (and all the props in between) the majority of adults surveyed by the Met Office reported that they checked the weather either within an hour of getting up or before leaving the house in the morning.
Another finding (that I think we already knew) was that British adults ‘weather-chat’ on average six times a week, beating the other gossip favourites like money, relationships… and, in my case, what to have for dinner tonight.
It even beats topics such as Kim Kardashian’s bum, blaming Canada for Justin Bieber, the race for Theresa May’s keyring and, right now, England’s cricket triumph that will constantly be discussed, liked, shared etc., I imagine for the next century (excuse the pun).
Spain, as those who live here know, is a land of extremes – everything is either black or white and the Spanish love to talk about atmospheric conditions as much as the next man!
For example, in November, as soon as the temperature drops below 12°C, it’s all ‘Ay! Que frio!’, and they run for the scarves and Ugg boots. Whereas we Brits will just change from the bright pink flip flops to maybe the tan-coloured sling back sandals and dig out the cap and sleeved t-shirts from the winter wardrobe.
Inevitably we hang on until January, when we have to give up, drag the winter jacket out of mothballs and cover up that sun tan, as we know full well that February will bring those few days when it is so bloody cold that you could cut glass with your nipples!
At the end of March, as the skies clear to that beautiful azure blue, the big ball of fire regains its full force, and the arms are bared for the first time in months.
At this point, local Spanish people cry in anguish, wiping their brows, ‘Pero que calor hace!’, as if they’ve just arrived from Scotland and are totally unused to perspiration bubbles at 9.00 am.
Just for good measure, Irish people are so fascinated with the weather that a few years ago their interest actually inspired a TV show called Weather Live!
So, having learned a little more about this world-wide obsession, I have some advice to offer…
If you want to build up your ‘likes’ on Facebook, or followers on Instagram, then jump on those weather sites, add dramatic photos of cumulus thingies, red sunsets, hailstones the size of boulders or a snowman by the swimming pool and share the hell out of them…others will follow…I jest you not!
Finally a helpful handy phrase to remember when in the highly unlikely position of having to discuss a ‘pea-souper’ with a Spanish friend on the Costa Blanca, ‘No se ve tres en un burro’.