It was, to abuse a cliché, a perfect storm - of timing, tweets, and hurricane-force sarcasm. And I contributed as much the next metropolitan cynic with a smartphone. While eating my bran flakes, I heard a wheelie bin falling into my road. So I did what any fool in an age of banal over-sharing would - and tweeted a rubbish photo of it alongside a rubbish joke.
By then, social media were already straining in a gale of inanity, like the bough of a weary oak. The first gusts had came through on Sunday afternoon, perfectly hitting that idle time between supplement reading and a disappointing episode of Homeland. The ever reliable Buzzfeed offered “9 Shocking Photos Of The Devastation Wrought By The St. Jude Storm” - six images of toppled garden chairs, a felled gnome, a watering can and, yes, a wheelie bin.
We were all at it by morning, when in London at least, the winds seemed to be stiff rather than savage. “Part of a tree has hit the car roof,” Gary Lineker tweeted. “Not too much damage, I think”. He included a picture of a single leaf on a car (cue 10,000 retweets, to my zero).
Then came the knowing “middle-class crisis” updates of delayed Ocado deliveries and devastating quinoa shortages in Crouch End. “Pretty sure the herbs on my windowsill have met their demise,” one wag tweeted. “Can’t bring myself to open the curtain” (credit: “18 Intensely Middle Class Responses To The U.K. Storm”).
The St Jude’s Day storm, named after the patron saint of lame banter (or lost causes, to be accurate) also had the good fortune to coincide with morning rush hour, already peak time for pointless updates about leaves on lines and the hopelessness of the circle line. Just as reliable, meanwhile, were the comments and messages from hardier souls who despaired at the feebleness of southerners.
By the time London got to its desk, the sun was out and St Jude had moved on. #UKStorm2013 became yet another study in contemporary, Twitter-driven hype, where inanity and vanity collide in a whirlwind of wasted bandwidth. We only learned when the jokes ran out that wheelie bins had not been the only victims of the storm. Thousands of home are damaged or without power, and four people are dead. Perhaps to its credit, Buzzfeed later acknowledged as much with “The St. Jude Storm Actually Turned Out To Be Quite Bad”. Next time, I’ll keep eating my bran flakes.