More than bacon sandwiches with brown sauce.
More than being offered a hot milky cup of tea during a crisis.
More than Terry Wogan, trains that run on time or winning the Ashes (that's a cricket reference, for all my US readers).
It's talking about the weather.
Brits love talking about the weather so much that they'll watch multiple weather reports to see which one is the best, they'll strike up conversations at the bus-stop or at the check-out to analyze the latest forecast, and I'll hazard a guess that some British friendships are almost entirely based on fleeting weather-themed interactions.
In the spookily accurate study of English behavior, Watching the English, anthropologist Kate Fox devotes her first chapter solely to the British love for weathertalk. She even covers Americans' bewilderment at this fascination, which is heightened by their perception that the UK "has no weather". I've experienced this bewilderment first-hand plenty of times; Kate Fox even acknowledges the misplaced offense that us Brits feel when someone does our weather down.
Mark's learned not to insult our weather now as it has a tendency to fight back. A few days before we got married he and his family almost died with the New Zealand All-Blacks. Hurricane-like winds caused their flight over to be re-routed twice and it had to make three attempts at landing. Mark said he screamed like a girl, but he also said that the large rugby players did the same. And then there was the time when his flight to see me was re-routed due to snow, and that other time with the wind. Yes, Mark learned his lesson alright.
Fox puts this obsession with the weather down to a specifically English brand of social awkwardness, where weather becomes our go-to smalltalk. I never really realized how true this is until I moved here. I use weathertalk constantly now when meeting or speaking to new people. It's actually brilliantly useful.
New Person: Hey, welcome to America. How are you finding it so far?
Me: Hot. And what's that big yellow thing in the sky? I never saw that when I lived in Scotland.
New Person: (laughter). Yes, you need to be careful, you're so fair-skinned!
Me: Oh, this is actually me with a tan! You should have seen me before, I was practically reflective.
New Person: (more laughter).
Then we can have jovial conversation about my problems understanding temperature in Fahrenheit, talk about how last month was the wettest June in Scotland since the 1910s, talk about how much I'm going to struggle with the humidity come August, feel glad I don't live in the deep south…and I could go on…
So far, I love it. Pennsylvania is especially great because it gets four seasons, unlike Scotland where it rains for six months, followed by six months of rain. This week the temperature's about 100F, we've had fabulous rolling thunderstorms, and the sunshine is wonderfully uplifting. I can bask in the morning warmth for breakfast, pop back into the cool breeze of inside, and step out for bitesize chunks of sunshine and vitamin D throughout the day.
But Mark hates it. He hates summer. He's longing for fall/autumn. He doesn't understand that a Brit's idea of a summer vacation involves anywhere that guarantees sun, sea and sand, and at least eight hours of horizontal roasting on a sun-lounger by the pool. Brits get their summer sunshine in one large accelerated dose to boost them through the dull short days from October - March. That's not an issue here. Sun is readily available. Even 100% chance of rain doesn't actually mean it's going to rain. The grass is scorched And Mark is fed up.
So when it reaches 100F, Mark and family make a bee-line for a large, dark, refrigerated room…
|When we went to see Brave my hair decided to play along.|
PS, when I wrote this, we were experiencing a light thunder and lightning storm. It was a bit more severe in NY.