ARE we the most self-deluding nation on earth? We must be. For example, it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing during the Great British Summer, some smug Met Man will tell us that “actually, this is quite normal for the time of year”.
I don’t know what the weather is going to be like when you read this (it might have brightened up overnight).
But even if there were 120 mph gales that lifted caravans into the air and deposited them on top of church steeples; if there were such downpours that whole mountains in the Lake District were being washed away; if there were hailstorms that created millions of tiny potholes in the M62; then the weatherman would still assure us that, “actually this is quite normal for June”.
He would no doubt be able to brandish average rainfall and windspeed figures which did indeed show that the months of June, July and August in Britain were usually like something from a disaster movie about a mad scientist who had learned to control the weather and was venting his fury after the Government had refused to accede to his demands.
But no matter how often we are assured that it is the norm for British summers to be wet and windy, we still bask in an imaginary glow of blazing sunshine and lazy days on the beach and evenings around the barbecue.
We have inhabited these islands since at least the last Ice Age and still we are in denial about our weather.
Noel Coward wrote that “mad dogs and Englishmen rush out in the mid-day sun”.
It would have been more appropriate if he had sung that “mad dogs and Englishmen get soaked in the mid-day rain” - maybe waving a damp Union Jack during a Jubilee event or waiting vainly for play to resume during a Test Match.
The very fact that the English invented the sport which, above all others, depends on dry conditions and good light is evidence of the extent to which we are determined to defy the reality of our weather.
It would have been far more logical if, during the 18th century, something like bog snorkelling or mud polo had emerged as our Great Summer Game.
But no, we insisted on devising a sport which sees players sprinting for the pavilion at the first droplets of rain.
The crowds at the Jubilee pageant showed that after many centuries of being rained on the English are extremely stoical about wet weather.
But surely the rules of evolution should mean that by now we had gone through a cultural shift where we actually preferred wind and rain.
We could try and kick start the process via children’s literature.
It is still conventional to read and write passages such as:
“It was the first day of the summer holidays and young Timmy pulled back the curtains to behold glorious sunshine. In the distance, beyond the golden sands of the beach, the blue sea, as calm as mirror, beckoned enticingly.
‘Hurrah!’ cried Timmy. ‘I shall spend the whole of my hols outdoors and be as brown as a berry when it is time to return to Greyfriars!”
As an alternative, why not :
“It was the first day of the summer holidays and young Timmy pulled back the curtains to behold grey skies and teeming rain. In the distance, beyond the sodden sands of the beach, the grey sea, churning turbulently, beckoned enticingly.
‘Hurrah!’ cried Timmy. ‘I shall spend the whole of my hols outdoors and be as wrinkled as a newt when it is time to return to Greyfriars!”
Let’s face it that would be much more realistic.