Radio 2 announced yesterday that the weather this last month is “the worst since records began.” I had no idea that weather could be submitted to moral judgments, and was interested precisely how this had been discovered, and what the Pope might have to say about it. To my disappointment it turned out that the absolute measure of how weather’s moral goodness is the reciprocal of how much it rains. By this criterion we should all hope that our reservoirs turn to sand and consider hosepipe bans to be life-changing miracles, or instead move to the Sahara to escape the roots that clutch and the branches that grow out of the stony rubbish of the British Isles.
The slant of the generic fake-forecast that you get on radio stations—oriented at people who only spend brief periods of time outside, between their car and the office—encourages paradoxical desires in the listener. It condemns one extreme of weather while actively promoting the other, regardless of the crops that need water or the discomfort of heatwaves in the city. Warm, dry winters—unseasonably, dangerous, frighteningly warm, dry winters—are always described as “marld” in this measure. “A marld day for most.” “Marld in the north, wetter in the south.” Mild, when pronounced by someone who thinks they know what RP sounds like, becomes a euphemism for “terrifying if you’ve read any books on the subject,” doublespeak in the extreme. (It also rarely ever actually provides any description of the actual weather and when in the day it’s likely to arrive, because if you’re cut off from the environment you cease to understand the importance of it and don’t want to know: but I’ve banged on about that before.)
Like capitalist consumption, therefore, the cultural narrative with which we are forced to discuss the weather breeds its own discontent, and a hatred of seasons and variation that, by promoting the hottest extremes, paradoxically and unwittingly wishes for more variation. August is always rainy, and it’s one of those constants in the UK weather system that astonish the likes of Sir Henry Woburn on his Tory Funtime Hour every year without fail; its worsening weather is a prediction of climate change, which Sir Hen still refers to as global warming as he chuckles about “bus mania” and how hard it is to drive across London these days. Astonishment at the status quo and blank denial of confirmed trends swim hand in fumbling hand across the airwaves like the otters of the apocalypse, and audiences wait at the water’s edge to gather them up.
“What a day. What a day!”