Terence Blacker: Tell-tale signs that change is in the air


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It is the moment of the year when, after months of chill greyness, nature stirs and, slowly, colour and warmth seep back into the world around us. A butterfly lands on the compost heap! A chiff-chaff calls from the cherry tree! A hedgehog shuffles out of the woodpile after its winter hibernation!

Fortunately, for those for whom the countryside in bloom means little, the human world contains 10 unmistakeable signs that summer is on its way.

1. A celebrity will be caught with his trousers down. The famous are at it most of the year but as, Jeremy Clarkson discovered this week, it is when spring arrives that the tabloids like to sniff out this year's love-rat, and proffer words of comfort and advice to the "long-suffering wife" of the moment.

2. Andy Murray fires his coach. As dependable as the return of swallows from Africa, the skinny Scotsman will have his annual crisis. There will be pictures of him staring gloomily into space, with or without a towel over his head. Soon he will find another coach. In the summer, he will reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam tournament. There will be different photographs of him – exultant, bellowing in triumph, the veins starting from his neck. Then the process will start again.

3. Suffolk will be hotter than Sicily. It will be a Stowmarket sizzler as the East of England steams in record temperatures. Cue unattractive pictures of the British in the sun. Alternatives to this story include Margate/Morocco, Runcorn/Rome and Cambridge/Capri.

4. Prince Charles will complain about being misunderstood. Seasonal experts will not have been surprised to read that the heir to the throne complained this week about being ridiculed for his views on religion. He has started spending more time in the garden. The sun beats down on his poor, naked pate, scrambling the royal brain and influencing his next public pronouncement.

5. A pointless survey will tell us something we either know already or are not interested in. It happens every month in the year but the spring brings certain favourites: the difference (a lot or a little) between men and women, weight loss, changing attitudes to holidays, the vegetables and fruit juices which are (or aren't) surprisingly good for us.

6. Big Brother announces another series. Like some pestiferous alien creeper that strangles more interesting plants that compete with it, the never-ending reality show is impossible to eradicate and returns every year. Even on Channel 5 it is a menace.

7. There will very soon be a water shortage. No matter how recent the spate of floods, somewhere soon will announce that water stocks are getting low and that a hosepipe ban will soon be enforced. There will be much empty talk of climate change.

8. A footballer will use a rude word, get drunk or sleep with the wrong person. It is the end of a long, arduous season. Footballers are getting tired, and so are fans, for whom the need to see the public humiliation of a successful player becomes an urgent biological imperative. Phrases like "a disgrace to football" and "foul-mouthed yob" bloom in the tabloid headlines. We learn new words and sexual practices: roasting, pigging, grilling, hogging, dogging, catting and so on.

9. A kitten snuggles up to a pit-bull terrier. Or a chick with a boa constrictor. Or a tiger suckles a mouse. Who cares so long as they appear in a goo-goo picture near the back of the newspaper?

10. A "troubled" star will go into meltdown. Michael Barrymore has disappeared, Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty are not destroying themselves in quite the interesting way they used to. Thank goodness Charlie Sheen is on hand to be this spring's celebrity addict.

terblacker@aol.com; twitter.com/TerenceBlacker

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