What's the weather got to do with British phlegmatism?

Whatever the temperature, being phlegmatic is usually the order of the day in Britain; very much a unifying defining characteristic that will persist for generations

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The Independent Online

Let’s talk about the weather. Like television, it’s something that receives relatively little space in i compared with the the outside world. Some of you may even be former Daily Express readers, and must be experiencing symptoms akin to going cold turkey.

The weather in itself I don’t find too fascinating, largely because there’s really not too much any of us can do about it – except perhaps not get out of the car the exact moment that the flash storm broke on Saturday. I guess on Sunday we could have declined to drive an hour and a half in the pouring rain in order to stand courtside for a morning in more pouring rain and wind at the regional heats of the national schools netball finals at the aptly-named Rainham, Kent. But, if they can play in it, we can watch them play in it.

However, in the end, they could no longer continue, as the courts flooded and the play resembled Dancing on Ice. We were three hours in by then and were halfway through the programme. What was fascinating was how the massed parents from every type of school from all over the South-east dealt with it.

Was there uproar at the initial decision to play on slimy courts? Were there frantic calls for the event to be scrapped as our daughters were slip-sliding about? Was there outrage that it was then postponed belatedly? There was none of the above. Of course.

Instead, on Sunday morning there were some traditional British attributes on display: magnanimous sharing of hot beverages, food, umbrellas and rainwear, stoicism when confronted with truly miserable conditions, black humour in the face of adversity, and a phlegmatic acceptance that this was just the way it was, both when the mighty netball authorities deemed the courts fit to play, and subsequently  deemed them unfit.

As I surveyed my fellow sodden parents and the poor school sports teacher sods desperately seeking shelter, I got to wondering whether these qualities were good ones or not. There’s zero doubt in my mind that these were all good people making the most of a bad situation, but should we all have kicked up more of a fuss?

If this was Italy you and I know there would have been a furore bordering on hysteria. Curses, religious and otherwise, would have been expended amid much gesticulation, both wild and subtle. Of course the coffee would have been better, but would the end result have been different?

Much hot air was expended after the death of Princess Diana about how we British had lost both our ability to remain phlegmatic and our world-renowned reserve. To me, these are two very different things.

If Britain is indeed losing its reserve then that’s for the better, it will make for a warmer, more upfront society, but phlegmatism? It’s still the order of the day; very much a unifying defining characteristic that will persist for generations.

For the record, not one teenage girl complained about the conditions at all. Which is exactly as you would expect. But, God, I wish it would stop raining.

Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live