Category Archives: Weather

Cushioning the blow

It’s days like this when you realise just how sodding big the United States is. This time yesterday, I was in Los Angeles soaking up the sun ahead of my long trip east back to The Special One and co. The temperature was in the 80s, and t-shirts and shorts were the only attire necessary.

Twenty four hours later, I’ve traveled two and a half thousand miles or so without leaving the country, and it’s suddenly colder than a PTA meeting that’s just received a surprise visit from Gary GlitterPee Wee Herman. It’s blowing a blizzard outside, and my nasal hair has been frozen rigid by a quick trip outside to postmail some letters.

Clear skies on the trip back from LA meant that I was able to take in the full extent of the American landscape from my window seat, from the glory of the Rockies and the Grand Canyon, through to the madness of Las Vegas and Manhattan. And if there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that the cities of America – or even the built up areas – represent a tiny fraction of what is an astonishingly beautiful country. Admittedly, parts of the environment roughly resemble what I imagine the surface of the moon to be like, and are probably only ever going to be inhabitable by mountain goats with a penchant for eating gravel. But it’s still a damn impressive sight.

Thankfully my Delta flight proved to be uneventful. Not because I’m scared of flying – after all, I commuted back and forth between New York and London for an eternity (or eighteen months, if you prefer), and you can’t do that if you’ve got a head for heights like BA Baracus.

No, the problem I’ve got is actually with their safety procedures.

I generally don’t listen to the security briefing – I’ve heard it so many times, and despite everybody surviving the recent Heathrow crash, I’m largely of the opinion that if a plane goes down, it’s pretty much game over. But for some reason, I listened this time round. Amidst the “take off your high heels before leaving the plane via the emergency slide” and the “follow the lights at floor level until you reach your closest exit”, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the statement that “in the event of landing in water, most of our seat cushions can be used as flotation devices.”

Now, I think most of you will agree that if your plane has crash landed on water, things aren’t looking good. Especially if you’re – say – in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But if you’ve landed in a lake, river or a reservoir, that flotation device might just come in handy. So why in hell aren’t all of their seat cushions capable of being used as flotation devices?!

I can just imagine the scene now:

Plane crash survivor 1: We’re so lucky to have survived this horrific crash, aren’t we?
Plane crash survivor 2: We sure are. But will we ever get out of this water alive?
PCS1: Don’t worry, you can use the seat cushion that you so handily remembered to bring with you as a flotation device.
PCS2: We’re saved! We’re saved! OK, here goes…erm, why am I sinking…?

Maybe the airline had budgetary issues when they were having their planes made by Boeing, and had to make cutbacks? But I can tell you one thing – if my plane ever goes down, and I find myself in the water with a seat cushion that doesn’t float, I am going to raise hell on the phone with their customer services team…

We’re flying Delta to Tennessee this weekend, and I’m fully expecting the flight staff to come over the intercom and tell passengers that most of their pilots can fly planes.

That said, if it keeps snowing for a few days, we won’t be flying anywhere. We’ll have to save our game of seat cushion Russian roulette for another week.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

As a general rule, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the British fear change. A poll in 1993 found that half the population feared that rabies would return to the country once the Channel Tunnel opened. The Daily Mail still hasn’t quite come to terms with the number of Poles now allowed into the country. And there was even outcry (from the elderly at least) when the UK finally embraced decimalisation in 1971. This despite an impossibly convoluted system that saw a pound made up of 240 pence, twelve pence in a shilling, a half crown worth two shillings and sixpence, and a farthing worth a quarter of a penny.

Americans on the other hand positively encourage change. They don’t let any President serve more than two terms, for a start – a principle that, if it had been in place in Britain, would have seen Thatcher frogmarched from office in 1987. Restaurants change names and cuisine every ten minutes, and marriage statistics suggest that people change partners as often as they change their oil.

But when it comes to weather, America just doesn’t do change. In Britain, it could be sunny in the morning, snowing at midday and pouring down with rain by the evening. Here in New York, if you wake up and the sun is shining, it’s a fair bet it’ll be sunny for most of the day. And if it’s raining cats and dogs when you ruefully manage to drag yourself out of bed, it’ll probably still be throwing it down when you finally tuck yourself back in later that night.

Sadly, the one constant that shows no sign of change at the moment is the cold. Each day I walk into work before 9 in the morning, and as the wind whistles in off the Hudson River, I swear that I would feel warmer if I had blocks of ice strapped directly to my testicles. The feeling in my toes has gone on holidayvacation, and isn’t expected to return to my body until sometime shortly before Independence Day.

The eagle-eyed loyal reader will remember that I once said that coats are for losers and that I would “battle against the need for a coat until I have no breath left in my body.” Sadly the cold has taken away all the breath in my body, and I’m now seriously considering wearing two coats at the same time. The time for fearing change has gone. Otherwise, the only change happening around here will be the loss of all my bodily extremities.

The iceman cometh

Maybe it’s my Northern roots, or perhaps I’m secretly part-Eskimo, but I’ve never really felt the cold like some people do. I’d always rather sleep with the window slightly open even in winter, and I rarely have the duvet over me at night (even though it provides mosquitos with unfettered access to the Brit Out Of Water bloodstream). As a sixteen year old kid, I distinctly remember going to see Manchester United one icy cold February night with a friend from across the road. Despite it being cold enough to freeze saliva in your mouth, both Phillip Ashley and I point blank refused to wear anything other than our short-sleeved replica United shirts. It took me until April to warm up from the effects of that night, I seem to remember.

So if one thing has been abundantly clear to me since an early age, it is this – coats are for losers.

An extreme principle some might say. And one that could be tested to the limit by my residency in New York. You see, after all my recent boasting about the temperature in the Big Apple being more appropriate for June than October, it seems that the natural order has been restored and winter is about to regain its icy grip on the city.

I’m determined not to give up without a fight though. Last Sunday, I looked out of the windows to our apartment to be greeted by bright blue skies and glorious sunshine. And, like any right thinking Northern monkey, I immediately put my shorts and T-shirt on to head outside and pick up food for the day ahead. Sure, the temperature made things a little bracing, but I wouldn’t say that I was uncomfortable. Until the staring began, that is.

As I combed the streets of Brooklyn looking for organic chicken, I realised that a phenomenally high number of people were dressed in thick winter coats. Couples stepped out from diners with matching scarves, while groups laughed and joked in their brightly patterned gloves. And there was me, looking like some kind of extra from Hawaii Five-O. Needless to say, my look provoked a number of confused stares. I’m surprised that passers-by didn’t offer me quarters towards a hamburger and some proper clothes, to be honest.

Today I progressed to wearing a t-shirt and a cardigan, as some kind of begrudging acceptance that perhaps the weather has changed for the worse. But I’ll battle against the need for a coat until I have no breath left in my body. Sadly, given how cold it gets in New York in winter, that might come sooner rather than later.

Rainy days

I probably brought it on myself. Having moaned self-piteously about the hot weather a couple of days ago, the heavens opened overnight to leave me with the prospect of a miserable walk to the subway.

Fortunately, The Special One kindly provided me with an umbrella, seeing that that all mine have either been left in taxis or failed to survive the perilous journey to the other side of the world. Although given that three spokes were broken when we opened it mid-downpour, and the whole thing was about as useful for avoiding rainfall as a half-chewed toothpick with a feather on top, The Special One may have accidentally left her special powers somewhere in the Greek Isles.

Still, always quick with a solution to the problem, she hurriedly rushed me inside a nearby pharmacy to pick up a new umbrella, and the two of us proudly walked out of the store $20 lighter, but with two brand new glistening umbrellas to keep us dry.

In retrospect, maybe we should have been paying more attention when we picked them out, but they just looked like perfectly normal black umbrellas to me. I mean, who could possibly have known that upon removing them from their plastic sheath, a giant “I *heart* NY” logo would be lurking beneath?

So now not only am I a Brit Out Of Water, struggling to come to terms with life in a foreign land, but I’m a Brit Out Of Water with a stonking great sign which I willingly carry above my head to point out to all and sundry that I am an outsider. I may as well affix a large pink neon sign to my back saying “I am a tourist, please spit at me and then rob me.”

Next week I’m going to buy a Statue of Liberty foam crown, and make my way to the city’s swankiest bars. It can’t make me any more conspicuous, after all.

Weather with me

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I don’t quite get it. It’s five days before my birthday, and yet I could still be going to work in a T-shirt. I got married at the start of the second week of October, and could barely go outside because of how uncomfortably sweltering it was in my wedding paraphernalia (that makes it sound like I was dressed in full military apparel, but sadly my Victoria Cross didn’t come through in time for the big day). Put simply, it’s late October in New York, so why the hell is it so hot?

Annual temperatures are expected to exceed the five year average in all areas of the United States (bar the Pacific Northwest). Apparently it’s all down to the La Nina phenomenon, with the cooling of ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean proving to be the the main contributing factor behind the expected warmth. And there was me thinking it was just all the hot air being generated by the prospective Republican candidates for next year’s presidential elections.

Even New Yorkers are surprised at this turn of events. I naturally assumed that it was like this every October, but colleagues today reassured me that October’s usually as miserable over here as it is back in the UK. They’ve been expecting the bitter temperature drop for a few weeks now, but instead it’s ice creams all round.

Interestingly, the unexpected sunny snap has shown me that it’s not just the British who moan about the weather – Americans can more than hold their own when it comes to complaining about the climate. Whether it’s uncertainty about what to wear in the morning, or the awkward sunlight in the meeting rooms, New Yorkers are more concerned with the unexpected heat than with any bumbling taxi strike.

When it comes down to it, October’s the month when you should be digging out your winter coat, not wondering where you left those frankly dubious Bermuda shorts after your trip to Marbella. Sure, the weather will help me keep the Greek islands tan currently giving me a healty golden glow. But sometimes you just long for the cold winter nights to close in so that you can light a fire and drink rich red wine to your heart’s content.

Of course, you can all feel free to remind me of this entry when I’m blogging about how freezing it is in a few months. In the meantime, I’m off to put the air conditioning on full blast.

Climate unchanged

A brief interlude over the weekend, as I returned to the UK for the first time since upping sticks and moving to New York. As ever it was great to see family and friends, and to find that nothing much changes – even when you’ve moved 3500 miles away.

And nothing changes less than the British weather.

Despite the furious claims of London colleagues that the weather has actually been pretty temperate since I left, I woke this morning to one of the biggest downfalls of rain I’ve seen in ages. And by ages, I mean ‘the morning that I left the UK to move to America’. Sure, the sun is now shining, but it’s a fair bet that the underground system won’t be working properly for the rest of the day.

Put simply, Britain isn’t equipped to cope with bad weather. Which is pretty inexcusable given how long we’ve been coping with the stuff. I took a cab to the office this morning, as I didn’t much fancy sitting in wet jeans on a seven hour flight back to the US later today, and a journey that should have taken fifteen minutes took more than an hour. Traffic ground to a standstill as the rain beat down on the car, and pedestrians passed by like rapidly drowning rats.

Statistics say that there’s as much rain in New York each year as there is in London. If that really is the case, I can only assume that it rains incredibly heavily while I’m in the toilet, as I’ve barely seen it rain once since I’ve been heading across the Atlantic on a regular basis. Admittedly there was a storm that brought the subway system to a halt last month, but these things happen about as often as Paris Hilton has a quiet night in.

Maybe Britain doesn’t have an infrastructure that can deal with severe weather because nobody puts up a fuss? In the US, the closure of the transportation network for even an hour causes an almighty outcry, with sheepish bosses dragged out in front of the media to explain their failures and possibly sacrifice their first born child. In London, an hour-long system failure is often a service improvement, provoking public rejoicing and much clinking of champagne glasses in the executive dining room at London Underground Towers.

When it comes down to it, the British love to complain. This entire blog is the perfect demonstration of that, surely? If we didn’t have anything to bitch and moan about, we’d lose our entire raison d’etre. And if you look at it that way, rain isn’t the bane of our existence – it’s actually the thing that keeps us going.

Anyone got an umbrella though?