Monday, 24 November 2008

Snow? Call that snow?

It snowed yesterday – in case you didn’t notice. Well it did in London anyway; I woke up and looked out of the window to find the garden covered in snow.



The first time I saw substantial quantities of snow was in Stockholm, quite a few years ago. When I was growing up as a kid there was the odd flurry - even enough to build a snowman once or twice during my childhood – but real deep snow is something I first saw in Stockholm one February day.



For those who’ve never been, the weather in Stockholm is beautiful at various points throughout the year. The summer is amazing, and when the city is covered in snow it also looks pretty stunning – although I wouldn’t advise venturing out without a hat. But I hope I don’t offend too much of my Swedish friends when I say that the weather in November in Stockholm is really rather dismal. It’s not cold enough to snow and look picturesque and yet it’s wet enough to be raining almost all the time. If you imagine a grey, wet day with darkness falling not long after lunch and temperatures just cold enough to be uncomfortable to stay outside in, then you’ve pretty much got Stockholm’s November climate in your mind.



I think it’s the unpredictable nature of the British climate which makes us unprepared for any extremes of whether. You hear people who’ve spent time in Sydney complaining that houses in the UK generally aren’t air conditioned – through those of us from the UK would turn the argument around and say that it’s rare to find a house in Sydney with central heating. Of course, you don’t need central heating in Sydney that many times in a lifetime, whereas air conditioning would be nice in the UK most summers. But the point is that fitting every home with both air-conditioning and central heating would be expensive, and although I do know of houses with both – it’s fairly rare. So, it wouldn’t be economically viable to install both in every house so you go for the one which is most use – and though it does get hot here in the UK in the summer, it rarely gets VERY hot – and I’d argue, hopefully without much resistance, that there are more “cold” days than “hot” days per year here in the UK.



The UK lies at that annoying point in the world climate where it’s never really very hot nor very hold – it’s the product of being neither near a pole nor the equator and having a maritime climate, I guess. But I actually quite like it this way. I like the thrill of sometimes having to deal with a cold day in August, and the ability to sometimes be able to go for a country stroll on Christmas Day. The only thing I dislike about the UK is the quantity of rain. Now, I can already hear the cries of “you call that rain?”. I know that some countries have more rainfall, but the rain in the UK is like that in Stockholm in November. It’s cold and miserable and clings to you like it’s raining glue rather than raining water. It’s also unpredictable. In some places, you can set your watch by the nightly rains during the monsoon; not so in the UK. You can guess it’s probably going to rain, but the only guarantee is that it’ll happen at exactly the moment you decide to pop out to the shop without your waterproof coat on...



Or an umbrella – but don’t get me started on umbrellas...

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