Working in an Antiques Shop (or any shop), you are obliged to talk to the customers, conversation rarely progresses beyond the pleasantries, or The Weather for that matter. Every conversation concerns The Weather. In Britain, it seems that The Weather is so ingrained in our psyche that ones thoughts and sentiments rarely stretch past it. The result is: that for the large part, words are already pre-packed and ready to go – that convenient line: “rubbish weather today…” is always there, should we need to use it. And we almost always do.
Our history, like our thoughts, is influenced by the weather. From a sodden island of woad-wearing druids to one of mild mannered eccentrics, the weather has been with us always. Governing what we do, how we progress and how we look at things.
Typically in England, the weather is completely anarchic. Fast moving clouds, heavy downpours, 30 degrees in March and 16 degrees in June. In short, none of it makes any sense. This erratic, mild weather is a reflection of the British character, a tendency to be a bit odd, slightly anarchic, but at the same time, mild of manners.
Judging by our latitude, our climate should be similar to Canada, it isn’t; we don’t have winters that force the fattest of bears into hibernation or summers that make them groan as they wake. Our Ports should freeze over in winter. They never do. Our farmland should be sparse and frostbitten; contrastingly it is fertile and abundant. Now as good as these things are, they are hard to get excited about.
The Gulf Stream makes our summers and winters mild, throwing in a few heat waves when it can be bothered. It is what causes a small island in the middle of the Atlantic to be strangely fertile and prosperous. In other words our crap weather caused a surplus of food that was needed for a Civilisation to begin, suddenly the concern wasn’t simply about where the next meal would come from, but how best the energy it provided could be used. Our fertile lands attracted some visitors, Julius Caesar, William the Conqueror, some Vikings. Trade began, the workforce specialised, private enterprise took over, steam turned the pistons of industrialism and before we knew it, we had an empire.
All of this was possible through our crap weather. The mild climate allowed Ports to be open all year round; one had the luxury of sailing to anywhere, and at any point. The wealth that allowed Britain to industrialise was acquired through the insatiable demands of an empire built on merchants. And what made these merchants perfectly happy to sail to every corner of the globe, was that they were escaping the drab, uninspiring weather of their homeland.
So, ultimately, when we benignly say: “rubbish weather today”, we are doing far more then just groaning in conversational light-heartedness. We are showing something that is so ingrained in the British character, we don’t even recognise it being there. That when we utter that exhausted phrase, annoyed by the climate, we forget that, that very same climate has constructed the mild mannered, eccentricity that we prize so highly.