The Princess is currently having to write a paper about the recent Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change which is taxing her a little as there are obviously no textbooks to refer to and no authoritative sources that everyone agrees on. In short, she’s being asked to assimilate and evaluate information from a series of online sources that may well be promoting this, that or the other agenda – everything from climate change nay-sayers to imminent global catastrophe merchants. It’s the kind of academic exercise (literally, in this case) that would not have been possible when I was at University as it requires knowledge of and fluency with a medium (the Net) that absolutely refuses to be nailed down and is capable of expressing thousands of different viewpoints at once. She’s having to think about what she’s quoting as well as what she’s writing and I think it’s great….then again, I’m not having to produce 1500 words on Copenhagen…..
The kind of climate change currently worrying most people is the kind that falls from the sky and piles up in drifts or is compressed into sheets of ice that turn the roads into skating rinks, which is what we are suffering from in the UK right now. People who live in New York or Oslo or Minsk are of course familiar with the phenomenon of snowy winters and long ‘cold snaps’, whereas I think here in Britain we have almost been on the fringes of becoming nostalgic about such things as though they had gone for good and we were to be condemned – due to global warming or whatever – to an endless grey/green nothing of a climate that might almost have been designed with the British in mind – never too much of anything but never enough of it either.
Help, my back garden is turning into the next Ice Age…
The British are great talkers about the weather, of course. Traditionally, it stops us from talking about anything meaningful, thus we can encounter our cuckolded neighbour and say ‘Hasn’t the weather been awful?’ instead of ‘I hear your husband has run off with that succulent, pouting Estonian au pair…’ More often still, it gives us something to talk about with people we don’t actually want to talk to anyway. At social occasions over the recent Christmas break, how many people found themselves waxing lyrical about heavy frosts and side-roads like icerinks with that awful couple from # 47 who send their snot-nosed brats to private school and play Gilbert & Sullivan operas too loudly in their back garden on fine summer days?
Also, the British are the same about the weather as they are about their politics…give them too much of any one thing and they will rapidly become restive, bored and truculent. Last week’s ‘Winter Wonderland’ stories of happy children tobogganing down the frozen slopes of nuclear slurry adjacent to their homes have now morphed into scare stories about how this is the start of a new Ice Age and how Mrs C. McBride of Longbenton near Newcastle was out walking her dog in the local park when a fully grown mastodon came charging out of the bushes near the Ladies’ Toilets and headed off in the general direction of the Asda Megastore at Four Lane Ends.
This kind of weather should of course be great for those involved in the overseas property market – or at least it would be if we weren’t in the throes of a recession. Many people might well be tempted to exchange the icy wastes of the UK for a lush Mediterranean villa with bouganvillea round the doorway and hot & cold running sangria – if they had any money. John & Kath, with whom we spent a week in Morocco, are ‘snowbirds’ of this ilk and are able to afford to be out in Cyprus until March. I know that they will have missed their UK comforts and their family & friends over Christmas but you can bet your life that they are glad to be out there right now. John’s visual handicap generally means that if there is any frost, snow or ice on the ground, he just never leaves the house – and I know that one of the reasons they have opted for this escape to better weather is because he was effectively becoming housebound between November & March, which was playing havoc with his health in other ways.
For others, maybe a quick break in the sun could be the answer – I know that in Northern Scandinavia at this time of year, there will be plenty of charter flights heading off ’til syden’ (to the south) which can mean anywhere from Luxor to Lanzarote; for many it is the sunlight that matters and everything else is incidental…I will confess that we are now into my least favourite time of year; the dog days of winter when the landscape seems dead and the days are short and grey and dismal….the problem with our Atlantic climate is that the snow never stays crisp and deep and even for long, but usually transforms into grey, oily slush within days.
For others, all of this is just another reason to feel smug that they are on the other side of the world – my mate Adrian’s eldest, Hannah, is off on a post-Uni gap year with her boyfriend, Matt and they have already been sampling the delights of New Zealand before heading across the Tasman Sea to the rather more questionable delights of Orstrylya….let’s get this out there right away; I am not a fan of Australia on just about every level it is possible to be not a fan of something. I have never had the slightest interest in going there and can see plenty of reasons for wanting to get out . A look at the photo below, posted by Matt on his Facebook page, will hopefully begin to explain my antipathy…..
Now, from my point of view, this is just wrong on every level….in this country, you’d need a livestock licence to have something that big running round your house. Imagine getting out of bed in the middle of the night to answer the call and treading on something that big – worse, imagine it running round the house whilst you try (in vain) to sleep!
Personally, whilst I’m sure that Orstrylya is all that travelling Aussies claim that it is, I’m never going to be there to find out – and this is one of the reasons why. I’m not really an arachnophobe and will deal quite happily with the moderate-sized garden spiders that tend to migrate indoors in the autumn, but it’s the sheer size of these antipodean buggers, not to mention that so many of them are venomous. In fact, as Billy Connolly memorably observed, it’s a miracle that anyone survives till adulthood if they grow up in Oz. The sheer toxicity and aggression of some of the wildlife both in and out of the sea defies description. In fact I’m sure that the Discovery Channel are currently cooking up a series to decide which continent is the most hazardous for human beings. For me, I would envisage a Final between Australasia and South America, with the Aussies bringing on a Box Jellyfish and a couple of Redback spiders in extra time to settle things in their favour. I think the final telling factor has to be the number of Aussie backpackers loose in Europe at any time of the year….if Oz is so bloody marvellous, what are they doing over here in Europe? Escaping from the homicidal wildlife might be one answer….
Perhaps our winter wonderland isn’t so bad after all……