Newclose under glowering skies.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
HAVE you noticed how often the demarcation lines on television weather maps seem to go right through the middle of the Island?
This arbitrary divide gives the impression that while the hardy folk of Wellow are shuffling around in duffel coats and sou’westers, the good people of Wootton are simultaneously loading up their picnic hampers, dabbing on the sun-cream and heading for the nearest beach.
It’s the time of year (ie the cricket season) when I tend to notice such things because I maintain a permanent weather watch to see if my weekends are going to be worth living.
From Monday onwards I flick constantly from channel to channel, slowly building up an ever more confusing meteorological picture of what lies ahead as my brain hums and churns with forecasting cliches.
Will the rain which will inevitably fall on me at Newclose several times this summer be patchy or intermittent? And how will I know the difference? And will I care?
Will the precipitation which sends everyone scuttling into the sanctity of the pavilion at regular intervals be regarded as a shower or an outbreak of occasional rain?
Will it be issuing forth from cumulonimbi which have gusted up from the south or pulsed in from the west?
In the unlikely event the clouds eventually part and a strange warmth suddenly radiates down from above, will it be a sunny interval, a sunny period or a sunny spell?
I always hope it will be a sunny spell, because the phrase offers up the promise of a vague degree of permanence and prolonged pleasure, while a sunny period suggests its benefits will be limited, and a sunny interval implies it will be flanked on either side by showers (or outbreaks of occasional rain, of course).
You may not be consumed by such trifles but we cricket folk become obsessive as the damp weeks pass and the fixture list diminishes.
We gaze longingly at the cheerful little solar symbols on the TV weather maps and study whether they are placed over or under the accompanying representation of a cloud.
You will have realised by now we are unable to see a passing straw without grasping at it frantically, because upon such minutiae are entire weekends planned.
Weather forecasting on the television has become a jargonised pantomime and it’s possible to get some idea of what lies ahead by turning down the sound and merely watching the hand gestures.
A graceful sweep of the left hand from behind the left ear means something unpleasant is heading our way from the Atlantic (Sian Lloyd is particularly good at these) and a circular motion means whatever it was intends to make a return visit fairly soon.
Depressing both hands palms down (Philip Avery and the other Met Office chaps favour this one) means 'don’t get too excited by the good weather because it’s not going to last’.
When the going gets tough, the tough don’t always get going; they head instead for the comforting presence of Carol Kirkwood on BBC Breakfast. The eaves may be rattling, the rain may be sweeping in horizontally and the leaden clouds may be lining up on the horizon like vicious little thugs poised to attack, but Carol just beams her way through it all.
Tempest, tornado or 90 degrees in the shade, they all come the same to the delightful Ms Kirkwood.
If the end of the world is to be announced, or yet another Ventnor match is going to fall prey to the weather, I want Carol to be the one to tell me.
That’s telling police callers
IT’S going back a few years now, but do you remember those days when every town on the Island had a police station that was actually open for business, and even most villages had the reassuring presence of a police house where the local bobby lived?
It was the same on the mainland, of course, and Alan Stovell, a former stalwart of HM Constabulary before he retired to go toe-to-toe with some of the lightweights on the IW Conservative Party’s executive, was telling me about the confusion some of them caused.
He said: "There was a small station near Winchester at a village called Upham, and the manner in which officers were told to answer the telephone used to raise a few eyebrows.
"They were instructed to announce their names first, then the name of the station, which meant that for some months the telephone was answered thus: 'Wright, Upham’.
As if this were not bad enough, the next officer serving there was obliged to answer: 'Bunker, Upham’.
"Matters came to a head when the next chap took over and was obliged to respond with 'Fawcett, Upham’.
"The chief constable at the time then got involved and issued orders that to save any embarrassment officers were to give their name and not mention the location of the station, on the perfectly reasonable basis that most people would know which one they had rung anyway.
"The new procedure was put in place for the following Monday, and the first person to ring Upham was greeted with 'Dyer ’ere!’"