Cold comfort

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Britons are often mocked for their determination to discuss the weather at every opportunity. Weather acts as a form of social lubrication, with a script that gains its charm from its hackneyed familiarity. "Lovely weather, isn't it?" "True. But how long will it last, eh?" "True enough, ha, ha. Bye!" Or there's Version B: "Isn't it cold?" "Isn't it just? Will the winter never end?" "And they call this global warming! I don't see much sign of warming! Ah well. Byee!"

Britons are often mocked for their determination to discuss the weather at every opportunity. Weather acts as a form of social lubrication, with a script that gains its charm from its hackneyed familiarity. "Lovely weather, isn't it?" "True. But how long will it last, eh?" "True enough, ha, ha. Bye!" Or there's Version B: "Isn't it cold?" "Isn't it just? Will the winter never end?" "And they call this global warming! I don't see much sign of warming! Ah well. Byee!"

Such exchanges, with small variations, can be heard on doorsteps across the country. The dialogues are generally acknowledged even by the participants as being as meaningless in their way as "How are things?" "Oh, you know. Can't complain."

None the less, there comes a point when it is difficult to avoid addressing the topic of the growing oddness of our weather. In a few weeks' time, we may be complaining (as the suffering Greeks are now complaining) about unnatural heat. For the moment, however, it is nice to know that the groaning about a singularly gloomy July is not just psychosomatic - we really do look set to enter the record books (again). Lousy, lousier, lousiest. When it comes to British weather, it is at least comforting to know that records can still be broken.

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