Tuesday 22 October 2019

It's Christmas... so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

A genuine White Christmas is when you can't leave the house without freezing to death and the snow's so deep it's still there in January and the schools have to stay closed
A genuine White Christmas is when you can't leave the house without freezing to death and the snow's so deep it's still there in January and the schools have to stay closed

Billy Connolly put it best. If he wanted to know what the weather was like, he once quipped, he "looked out of the bloody window". He didn't need people on TV doing it on his behalf and then wasting valuable airtime by broadcasting the information that it was raining.

In fact, scientific tests have proven beyond reasonable doubt that people who purposely stay tuned after the news bulletins in order to catch the weather forecast are clinically insane and should, as a matter of urgency, be isolated from the general population for the safety of themselves and others.

Now and then, alas, you can't reach the remote control quickly enough and so end up having to endure the sight of well-paid, highly educated people telling you that there may be showers moving in over Munster in the next 48 hours, or that the winds will be light southerly veering to north-westerly later. Yeah, people, and your point is... ?

"Cloud cover will vary" is my particular bugbear. That one, buried away in a three-day forecast, appeared on the Met Eireann website over Christmas.

Er, of course it will vary. We're living on the world's 20th biggest island, with a total area of over 30,000 square kilometres. Ireland is bigger than Sri Lanka, Tasmania and Taiwan. How the hell could cloud cover not vary in that large an area over a 72-hour period?

Evelyn Cusack's not the worst of the bunch on RTE, by any means. The worst would be -- well, it wouldn't be kind to name names, this being Christmas and all, but you know who you are, Gerald. At least Evelyn doesn't wink. (Though to be fair, Gerald Fleming does have his own Appreciation Society on the internet, so he must be doing something right). It just so happens that it was her presenting the forecast I caught by accident last Tuesday, when she told the nation that there was "lovely winter sunshine" all over the country.

Now I know there are terrible things going on in the world far more worthy of annoyance than the weather on RTE. But come on, Evelyn's an intelligent woman. According to the RTE website, she has a BSc and Masters degree in Physics from UCD. No slouch in the brain department, this one. She makes Carol Vorderman look like Benny from Crossroads. Where then did the "lovely" come from? Bet she didn't learn that scientific term at Met Eireann. What next -- warnings about "naughty" occluded fronts?

Maybe the veterans feel threatened by the influx of blonde totty in the weather world, many of whom appear to regard forecasting as one small step on the road to Ulrika-style telly stardom and feel the need to personalise their own deliveries in response. I don't want someone telling me when it's "lovely" outside or when it isn't, I'm perfectly capable of deciding what I think about the weather myself, thanks very much, without having the spin doctors going to work on sexing it all up beforehand. Especially when it's patently obvious that there's nothing "lovely" about the weather in Ireland at this time of year at all.

For one thing, there's nothing worse than winter sunshine when you're out driving. You might as well close your eyes and guess where you're going, for all the visibility you get in its glare. (And from the way some people drive, I'm guessing that's what they're doing).

For another thing, it's Christmas, and the only weather which should legally be allowed to be called "lovely" over the festive season is snow. Either the weather should oblige us on Christmas Eve by dropping a minimum eight feet of the white stuff on the entire country, or it should just, well, feck off, because why should we be fobbed off with anything less? We work hard. We pay our bills. We've a right to expect the best once a year.

It's not clear where this desperate need for a White Christmas comes from. For all I know, it was all an evil plot by Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby to sell enough 78s to let them retire to a Caribbean island.

It's not as if we ever had that many White Christmases in the past on which to look back fondly and unflatteringly compare our modern boring temperate climate's half-hearted attempts at the festive spirit. Officially, the last White Christmas here was in 2004, but that merely meant it snowed enough for the bookies to pay out on bets.

That's not the real thing. A genuine White Christmas is when you can't leave the house without freezing to death and the snow's so deep it's still there in January and the schools have to stay closed. It's the kind of Great Frost that Virginia Woolf wrote about in her novel Orlando, when birds in flight dropped dead from the sky with cold and the rivers froze to a depth of 20 feet. Without something similar, it's hard not to feel cheated.

Till then, Holiday Inn, Home Alone, It's A Wonderful Life and Scrooge, and the tyrannical legion of other tinsel-draped films with their whiter than white December landscapes, should be banned by the censor, because the only effect they have is to make our Christmases here in Ireland seem like puny, snow-starved things by comparison.

Can you imagine the film of White Christmas if the long-awaited whiteout hadn't fallen in the final reel? Instead of horse drawn sleighs and jingle bells, there'd just be Evelyn Cusack popping up to say: "Don't worry, guys, there's some lovely winter sunshine out there! Who needs snow anyway?" Somehow, I don't think it would've caught on.

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