It may be fine in Scotland, but down here a storm's brewing

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The Independent Online
It is a very common complaint among the Scots that the weather forecast people leave their country till last in the list of areas dealt with. The normal habit of the Met men is to spell out the general picture, and then start rambling for hours and hours around south-west England and the Midlands - and even, for heaven's sake, Northern Ireland, although they should know it's always raining there - before deigning to cast an eye northwards. That means that people in Scotland must wait a minute or two longer than anyone else in Britain for their bit of the weather forecast.

That means that every day the average Scot spends an extra two minutes watching TV or listening to radio, which over a lifetime adds up to about 15 years spent grinding your teeth waiting for your bit of the weather forecast. It's a long time to wait, especially when the forecast gets it wrong, and it doesn't half wear your teeth down, which explains why the Scots have the worst dental conditions in Britain.

My complaint about the weather forecast is the opposite. It is that my bit of it - the South-west of England - comes far too early in the list. Usually first, in fact. Almost always I switch on the radio in the morning at what I think is weather forecast time and I hear someone say, 'turning now to Scotland', or, 'up in Scotland, however, the picture is a little different'. I have just missed my weather, and I have another 58 minutes to wait until I get it.

Yes, people in Scotland don't know when they're well off. They only have to wait two minutes. I have to wait 58 minutes] That's the equivalent of losing more than 40 years in a lifetime. Theoretically, I am dead already. I am also very knowledgeable about the weather conditions in Scotland, and I am thinking of starting a phone-in service for friends there who can't be bothered to wait all the way through the forecast for their local conditions.

Far from feeling sorry for the people of Scotland, I envy them. I wish the South-west was dealt with last, because then I would have a chance of catching it. And I would be a happier, younger person by now. I would switch on the weather forecast, find I had missed most of it, and gratefully hear the man saying, 'Turning now to Wiltshire, Somerset and the South-west . . .'

That's not true, actually, because if the South-west came last, I would then switch on a little later to miss the Scottish bit and I would find myself missing my bit as well, and the first thing I would hear would be the announcer saying, 'Our thanks to Dirk McHamish in the weather centre. He'll be back again in just under an hour. And now here's Laurie McLaurie with a look at what's on Radio 4 today'.

That's when I switch off. I forget all about the radio until about quarter of an hour later, when my curiosity gets the better of me and I switch on again, and - I swear it - when I do, there is always a man on the radio saying: 'So the Government has been aware of this for some time?'

'Oh, yes,' says his interviewee. 'We have warned them repeatedly. We have made our data available to them. But they have taken no action at all. And now this has happened.'

'What should the Government do now?'

'They must make more money and more manpower available immediately. But it is not enough to simply throw money at the problem. They have to address the root causes of the problem. Before it is too late.'

'Well, for a reaction to that we now turn to the minister responsible, who is in our radio car . . .'

And so it goes on. Have you ever heard this interview? I'd be amazed if you haven't It occurs every morning at frequent intervals. The conversation is always the same, no matter what the topic is. And the extraordinary thing about it is that unless you catch the beginning of it, you never have the faintest idea what it's about, because the subject is never referred to after the opening sentence. It couid be about babies being snatched from hospitals, or constables boxing people on the ears, or strange illnesses in Gloucestershire, or it could be widespread malaise and dysfunction in Scotland caused by having your country always left till last in the forecast . . .

(This article has been paid for by the National Association For Just Switching Off Your Radio In The Mornings And Looking Out At The Sky To See For Yourself What The Weather's Going To Be Like.)

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