Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 17th 2013 Contents B7
Thursday, October 17, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
"Should we talk about the weather?
Should we talk about the govern-
ment?" wondered Michael Stipe in
the chorus of REM's 1989 single Pop
Song '89. I'm going to talk about one
of those things, and it's not the gov-
ernment, I haven't been here long
enough, they could still deport me.
Or give me a house, depending on
As an Englishman it s my duty to
talk about the weather. Non-English
people might not understand this. In
Roman Polanski s dark comedy Bitter
Moon, set on a cruise ship, a young
Hugh Grant looks out to see and says,
"I do not like the look of that sky. I m
not sure if the weather s going to hold,"
trying to avoid a deeper conversation
that was in mid-flow. Peter Coyote,
somewhat deranged and wheelchair-
bound snaps, "Jesus, don t tell me
you re taking refuge in the weather."
He s mining a classic seam of the
traditional differentiators of the Amer-
ican and British character. Americans
are our biggest critics, mockers even,
when it comes to weather talk. They
think weather talk is just small talk,
as Stipe suggests in the song. It is not.
A dear Trinidadian friend of mine
has just recently arrived in London
where she ll be living for the next few
years. Already she understands why
we talk about the weather incessantly.
Why we "take refuge in it." We have
no choice. There s just so much of it!
And it s all so different. I don t just
mean different from day to day, you
can have four seasons in one day. Freez-
ing cold wind and driving rain can give
way to warm sunshine. Slate grey skies
can part to reveal pale blue skies. Hail-
stone, sleet, drizzle, mist, fog...all sorts.
Marvel at the number of terms we
have for rain alone. "Belting it down"
and "sheeting it down" are two of my
favourite terms for precipitation...there
are ruder ones, of course. A Canadian
once said to me, "You know how the
inuit have 50 words for snow, you Brits
have more then 50 words for rain."
The geographical location of Britain,
a strangely shaped and contoured
country surrounded by the North Sea,
Irish Sea, Atlantic and the English
Channel, makes for some interesting,
transient weather patterns.
I ve seen interesting weather here
too. Very dramatic. That night back in
September when the storm broke in
north west Trinidad stands out. (I was
later told not to refer to it as a "storm"
by the way, "that word scares people,"
my colleague said.)
Looking out of my window at the
lightning in Cascade at 3 am was
intense. I was on the phone to a friend
in Laventille and we could hear the
time difference between the rumbles
of thunder. Eventually the lightning
and thunder struck at the same time
just a few hundred yards from my
house. I saw and heard the lightning
crack in the black sky. Do they call
that a thunderbolt? Whatever, I d never
seen that before.
I d also never seen a complete rain-
bow arcing into a flat blue gorgeous
sea, like I saw in Castara, Tobago. I d
never felt an earthquake until last Fri-
day. A nice introduction, though per-
haps seismological rather than mete-
I d never seen floods before I arrived
or their after affects, which were
deemed serious enough for Anthony
Sammy to bring in Venezuelan
hydraulics and drainage experts to
assess the ongoing situation in Diego
Martin. Do we not have hydraulics
experts in this country, I wondered?
How seriously is the weather taken
here? It feels like the general public,
as well as environmentalists, recognise
climate change. That this part of the
world is heating up seems clear. Talking
to people in taxis I ll say, "Gosh, it s
hot today." Their responses often sug-
gest that it s a lot hotter nowadays
than when people were younger.
The rainy season in particular, it
seems. Petit Carême, aka Indian Sum-
mer, is now indistinguishable, it s just
hot, hot, hot. (Indian Summer in Eng-
land means something different, inci-
dentally, it refers to a late extended
warm summer stretching into autumn.)
There are two main types of weather
in T&T. Hot and really hot. Just walking
from my taxi drop-off at Duke Street
to my office on St Vincent Street, I
arrive with my shirt soaked in sweat.
On the rare occasion I feel a cool breeze
drifting up the street it s heavenly. At
the screening of Sustain T&T s film A
Sea Change, about global warming, an
audience member stood up at the end
and said these days it feels like the hills
near her home are on fire.
I like the heat. I think most people
do. It s healthier than the six months
of freezing cold we endure in Britain
every winter. But if we don t somehow
turn down the earth s oven a notch,
we might just overcook the pie.
Should we talk about the weather?
A dear Trinidadian friend of
mine has just recently arrived in
London where she'll be living for
the next few years. Already she
understands why we talk about
the weather incessantly. Why
we "take refuge in it." We have
no choice. There's just so much
of it! And it's all so different. I
don't just mean different from
day to day, you can have four
seasons in one day. Freezing
cold wind and driving rain can
give way to warm sunshine.
Slate grey skies can part to
reveal pale blue skies. Hailstone,
sleet, drizzle, mist, fog...all sorts.
The British have lots
of descriptions for
"belting it down"
and "sheeting it
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