All we seem to talk about these days is politics, politics and more politics. But too much of one subject can get so boring and anyway, in many situations it just plain isn’t ‘done’ to talk about either religion or politics. They could create quite awkward situations. Or even bring the police around.
So, aren’t we lucky here in Britain to have that we have that awful, wonderful subject The Weather to talk about. Our crazy weather which can change from minute to minute and that thumbs its nose at the straight-faced weather forecasts. We can go on for hours chatting about it with strangers without raising any hackles.
Think about it – you are at a party, are introduced to someone you have never met before, so after the mutual ‘Do you live around here?’ and ‘Have you known our hosts long?’, with the weather as a subject you are never at a loss about what to say next.
“Awful weather for the time of year, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sorry I’m a bit damp – the rain caught me as I was trying to get a taxi.”
“I gather the tube station has flooded again?”
“And yet last evening I phoned our daughter who lives in Norfolk and she said they hadn’t had any rain for weeks!”
“Honestly, you never can tell, can you? I remember once…”
Or, suppose you are stuck in a stalled lift with a stranger, what do you say after the obvious: “I’ve pushed the alarm button,” and: “Do hope they won’t be long.” Easy.
“Lovely weather again today, isn’t it?”
“Marvellous, really warm for once, and a whole week of it!”
“Hope it rains a bit soon, though, I’m tired of having to water the garden every evening.”
“Well, the weather forecast this morning said it would probably change for the weekend.”
“It usually does…”
And if you are stuck in the airport because there’s an inch or so of snow on the runway. You can always try to explain to the visitor-from-abroad next to you in a tee-shirt that this is the kind of thing which happens in the UK.
“But it’s MAY, nearly summer, I didn’t know you got snow here in MAY!”
“Ah well, you never can tell with our weather. It can get to 80 in May or it can snow. I remember once that they’d just started a cricket match in early June when snow stopped play. Now, that really was unusual!”
“How do you all cope?”
“Oh, you know, we get used to it.”
Imagine how the Queen feels with all those people to greet at her garden parties. What is she going to talk about after the obligatory: “Have you come far?”
“From the Isle of Wight, Your Majesty.”
“I do hope the crossing was not too rough, with this gale blowing.”
“Actually, Ma’am, that’s why I’m not wearing a hat – it blew off into the Solent.”
“I’m so sorry…”
And then there are the holidays. You’re sitting on the beach, muffled up with everything you could find in your suitcase case while the rest of the family are bravely dipping their toes into the far-from-blue sea. The father of the family sitting just up from you says:
“I wish we’d gone to Ibiza.”
“We tried that last year, just too darned hot.”
“We had to ask for extra duvets for our beds last night.”
“Ah well, it is only June…”
On the other hand, the weather can be a great chat-up line when you are queuing up for an ice cream of the beach:
“Staying down here, are you?”
“Great weather for a holiday, isn’t it?”
“Will you be down here tomorrow?”
“If the weather’s good.”
“OK, see you here tomorrow, then?”
On the other hand, it doesn’t always work:
“What a gorgeous evening, warm, no clouds, clear sky! Just right for a walk. And look at that full moon! Wonderful, isn’t it?”
“There’s a ring round it, means it’s going to rain tomorrow.”
Stuck with a group of very young children you’ve only just met and you don’t know what to say to them? You could try weather lore.
“Look, there’s a lovely red sunset. That means it’s going to be a lovely day tomorrow!”
“And we’re going to have a lovely summer this year because the leaves came out on the ash tree before the leaves came out on the oak!”
No, maybe not.
But there is another group who are always happy to talk about the weather. The older generation. All you have to say is:
“It was quite foggy when I left home this morning.”
“FOG? You call that FOG?? That was no more than bit of MIST! Now, when I was little there really WAS fog – you should have seen it! Couldn’t see across the road, you couldn’t!”
–”Real pea-soupers we used to have!”
“Couldn’t see a hand in front of your face!”
– “They had to have a man in front of the buses with a torch so the driver could see his way!”
“The school let us out early before it really came down, so as we could see our way home!”
– “Great fun it was. You youngsters don’t know what you’ve missed!”
But there is one time when you don’t talk about the weather.
You go to a meeting (any meeting) and you are sitting next to a stranger. Eventually, to be polite, you say something like:
“Good weather for once, isn’t it?”
“Too good. Not natural, all this heat.”
“Well, you know what they say – three good days and a thunderstorm.”
“Not now. It’s just going to get hotter and hotter, like they keep telling us. All the ice at the North Pole is melting, you know. London’s going to be under water very soon. And it’s all our fault – all this CO₂ we keep pumping out. Got to do something about it. Get all cars to go electric, build more windmills. We’ve been warned often enough over the years…”
“What I say is…”
And whatever you yourself think about global warming and climate change, for all you know the other people around you might well be ‘deniers’, as they are called. People who think it’s all a lot of nonsense. And if they join in the conversation, it’s going to become an argument and that’s going to make for a very awkward evening, even before the controversial speaker (on whatever subject) gets to the microphone.
So, it looks as though weather has joined religion and politics as a topic we can no longer talk about in company.
How very sad.