Monday, August 21, 2006

Turned Out Nice Again

An easy synaptic tangent challenge.

I chose the title of the blog because I noticed a change to the BBC Weather Web Page. I thought I spotted a change or maybe I navigated differently. Still, I stumbled across an old friend. There, in all it’s glory, was a Pressure Chart. At the weekend I swore that I saw it given pride of place on the weather page, but today it is merged into the maps section. (Note 1)

George Cowling who presented the first BBC weather forecast in 1954. His multimedia aids? A pen, ruler, dividers and rubber.

Proving that I am drifting happily towards acquiring full grumpy old git status, I welcome the return of isobars, cyclones, anticyclones, occluded fronts and all of the mystically named squiggles that should appear on a proper weather map. Good yeomen, this is but the first step in halting the ”dumbing down” of the British weather!

My generation were brought up gleaning the rudiments of weather prediction from the television weatherman. From a very early age, I’d worked out that High Pressure meant I would probably be allowed out to play and that Low Pressure meant that it would probably be indoor break when we would be squabbling over antiquated Beano comics. (Note 2)

As I got older, I picked up on the relations ship between the closeness of the isobars and the strength of the wind. I also worked out that the arrival of a weather front coincided with the arrival of the damp stuff. (Note 3)

Gone are the days when map making was an art and each map warned of the hazards.

Sadly, the BBC, in their infinite wisdom, felt that the weather needed to be made more hip, more accessible to the great British public. The rot set in with little magnetic symbols that(mostly) stuck to a map of the UK as a meteorologist talked us through the weather.

Along came computers and bluescreen technologies. Gone were the magnetic symbols to replaced by a meteorologist waving hands in vague sweeps across an old hospital blanket. I wasn’t that concerned. My old friend, the pressure map remained so I could check what they were talking about.

I didn’t even mind when they started to market their weather presenters as personalities. After worse things happen at sea or on ITV. On the ‘other side’ the weather presenters are not even meteorologists. They even go on celebrity TV shows like I’m a celebrity get me out of here. (Note 4)

When the BBC upgraded their weather graphics again recently, I shed a tear. I didn’t object that they made Scotland look small and insignificant. I didn’t mind that our green and pleasant land turned the same colour as overcooked liver. It didn’t bother me too much that the sea looked like any moment a serpent would rise up with the annotation “Here Be Monsters”. I didn’t even mind that rain was represented as a general blue splodge that enveloped the screen. No, I mourned the loss of my pressure map.

My Merkin cousins may think this odd. Yet, the British weather is so gloriously varied that it is an institution. It provides us with the ultimate fall back in any small talk situation.

I give you another institution - George Formby. I didn’t intend to talk about George Formby, I chose the title and as soon as I did, I thought of a smiling George, ukulele in hand, saying just that. Despite George dying when I was a mere babe in arms, somehow in my mind, that phrase is his. It would be interesting to see how many of my good yeomen agree.

Of course the mention of George allows a quick synaptic tangent onward to Jasper Fforde. I’ll leave you to discover just how that tangent came about. While you think about it, you could do a lot worse than explore the Jasper Fforde website.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I knew I should have blogged about it as soon as I saw it! Now I am wondering if it was all a figment of my imagination. Still, the pressure charts are there and I’m convinced that they weren’t before. I’m not going to let my memory stand in the way of a synaptic tangent. Click to return

NOTE 2 : The weather forecast being particularly important because it enabled the more enterprising young lad to snaffle some of the best selection before the dreaded call of “indoor break” from the teacher. Those not prepared were often left with the lesser comic titles – or (I shudder at the thought) were left reading copies of “Bunty”. Click to return

NOTE 3: There was still the confusion in my mind over the term warm front and cold front. As far as I could tell, a warm front didn’t make it warmer and a cold front didn’t make it cooler. They just turned up, dumped a load of rain on you, sniggered a bit and then moved on. In sixth form, the reasons were explained and rather than experiencing some great “wow” moment, it was all a bit of a damp squib. Education is a wonderful thing, but wasted on the young. Click to return

NOTE 4: Not that I am averse to watching C List celebrities whisked off to the rain forest and tortured. It’s bringing them all back again I object to. Click to return

Michael Fish, the BBC meteorologist who managed to miss a hurricane.

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