It has come to pass that there are readers of this blog from across the globe. Greetings to you! Particularly those in Russia and Japan, it is jolly exciting that you are remotely interested in what I have to say. Today, I would like to tell you about a very curious English tradition. It's something we do every year, without fail. It is something that we love, and love to hate. It is something that happens in every single nation on Earth, but nowhere else reacts to it quite like good old blighty. This tradition, ritual, phenomenon is commonly known as 'Winter'.
Allow me to explain. Every winter, this island nation either buzzes with excitement, or sighs as one, with collective disappointment and cries of 'things ain't what they used to be!'. Why? Because some lovely weather man, with a nice smile but reassuringly aged face, and just a touch of grey in his otherwise jet black hair, or weather woman with her crisp grey suit, annoying bob haircut and excessively friendly disposition, tells us our chances of snow this year. In recent years, we have had a bumper crop of snow, and the excitement starts well before the first BBC forecast. It starts off as a murmur. Someone will whisper in your ear that they have 'heard there's snow on its way,' never saying it too loud lest the secret police overhear and throw them into the tower of London for their seditious rumours. Next, the social networks pick up the news, and then it really gets going. Then the disagreements come, as to the exact details of the impending snowfall.
'It's going to come next Monday at 6.30 in the evening, lasting until 9.24'
'No no no my friend, we won't see any till Wednesday afternoon. You mark my words.'
'Are you joking?! I cross referenced 74 different websites, and they all appear to indicate we might be waiting till the week after.'
Then our minds are laid to rest by the Beeb. We get to the end of the 6 o'clock news; a story about child poverty in Sierra Leone just finishes, and the newsreader has to replace his sincere face with his gleefully excited one. 'The moment we've all been waiting for,' he starts, like he's about to announce the X Factor results, 'time for the weather forecast with Alex.' At this point, 'Alex' becomes the most powerful man in the world. Prior to today, 'Alex' has not featured at all in anybody's life bar his mother's, who is ever so proud of him, and has eagerly tuned in for this defining moment in his otherwise nondescript life. Usually, 'Alex' looks a little dishevelled and miffed, at always playing second fiddle in the weather department to Carole and Shefali. But today, he looks magnificent; not a hair out of place; eyebrows perfectly shapen; creases in his trousers sharp enough to give you a paper cut; practically bursting with excitement and desperately trying to retain his professionalism. He looks like he might cry with joy when he confirms we will see some 'Wintry showers' (ridiculous euphamism), and ends his report by advising us to wrap up warm. Seriously pal, are you a weather man or Trinny and Susannah? Anyway we pan back to the newsreader who is grinning as if to say 'I told you it was exciting!'
There are 2 possible situations now. Either it snows or it doesn't. If it doesn't, 'Alex' will become an object of national hatred for getting our hopes up, only for him to personally dash them at the last. It is his fault if it does not snow. But assuming it does, the ridiculousness continues. The forecasted day arrives. It is overcast. Now, it is important to realise that, with snow, everybody is an expert. People look up at the clouds and pronounce that 'there's snow in 'em'. Others say there's no chance. Regular chaps look heavenwards and analyse the colour, the altitude, the heaviness, the wind direction and speed, the humidity, and make detailed calculations, giving answers such as 'Nah.' Gritting lorries whizz around at 100mph, causing more accidents than they hope to prevent.
Then it starts. Across Britain, 60 million people run over to the nearest window and gaze, utterly mesmerised. For 10 minutes, everyone is delighted. Then the chaos begins. Traffic is brought to a standstill, children have their noses broken and backsides tanned by over-zealous snowball throwing, teachers are constantly on edge, the entire working population loses its motivation, and wants to go play! Half the elderly claim they have never known it this bad since Churchill were in power, whilst the other half claim that when they were young, they knew winters where the snow was 29 feet deep, and the entire county of Lincolnshire was completely buried, and wasn't seen again till mid March. The smart arses who go on skiing holidays either whip out their skis, 'just to ski down the lane' (because all the sort of middle class people who go on such holidays live on lanes. Everyone else refers to their road either as a road or a street. Lanes are for top earners), or go round telling anyone who will listen that this snow is nothing compared compared to the last time Daddy took them to Val D'isere.
That evening, some poor reporter will have been sent to some isolated spot in the Lake District or North Ayreshire to report from the side of the road on the treacherous conditions, whilst gradually turning into a snappily dressed snowman with a microphone. There appears to be no reason for this, as the people who live in North Ayreshire know very well that there is lots of snow, and everyone else is too busy with their own snow to give a monkey's about what things are like in North Ayreshire. Just tradition I suppose...
We will then be told how schools are closed, and that children, such as Jack and Jill from Somerset, have been out enjoying the snow with friends. This strikes me as rather silly, given that the previous reporter has just been urging everyone to stay indoors, lest they end up looking as ridiculous as him, only for his colleague to show us how much fun it is outside.
We will then be told that old people might die. Forgive my insensitivity, but doesn't that happen regardless of the atmospheric conditions? Just saying...
When it all starts to dissipate, we are all gripped by gloom and depression; that our sole source of joy for he last week is quite literally going down the drain, and that catching up will need to be done at school and all sorts. We never seem to mentally prepare for the inevitable, when it comes to snow.
And if it never does snow? We get to the day 'Alex' has told us about, and it feels all wrong. We feel empty, let down, disgusted. Those who said it would never happen are easily recognisable by their smug faces, and those who said it would blame it all on 'Alex'. He is never seen again on British television, and the rumour is that he has fled to be weather forecaster in Alaska. Word on the street is that it's an easier job there.
As for the rest of us, we pick ourselves up from this let down, dust ourselves off. We are absorbed back into our usual routine, but always holding onto the eternal promise that comes with being British.
Maybe next year.