I Miss The ‘Crap’ English Weather

I’ve just returned from a five-day trip to England, in which we saw the sun for an aggregate of about 15 minutes, but I miss the English weather already. It’s supposed to be 102 today in Washington, D.C., and 104 tomorrow. Factoring in the heat index, it will feel like a place well within easy commuting distance of hell.

June went down as the wettest June in the U.K. since rainfall records began to be recorded in 1910, with over 5.7 inches of rain. The British newspaper The Independent also noted other “lousy” and “disappointing” characteristics of the June weather: it was also the second least sunny June, with only 119 hours of sunshine, and also the coolest since 1991.

Given Britain’s reputation for wet, cool weather, the fact that records were set is saying something. But at least the Brits have a good sense of humor about their miserable weather. Reuters reports that Belgium is considering taking legal action against a weather service that made a long term forecast for a rainy summer on the Belgian coast.I was at Wimbledon last Monday in the rain and I asked a security guard I was chatting with if June had seemed especially dismal to him.

“You can always count on crap weather here,” he said. “That’s why you find the English on holiday in Spain, Greece and anywhere else where the sun shines.”

The Brits are so accustomed to bad weather that the Guardian’s weather map for the U.K. (see above) included the following key icons last week: showers, heavy showers, light rain, rain, thundery rain, thundery showers, overcast/dull, mostly cloudy and sunny intervals. How’s that for crap weather? In the States, we just get showers, rain or thunderstorms on our weather maps.

Five years ago, on a mid summer retreat to Newfoundland, the coldest place I could find within 1,000 miles of my home, we encountered a similarly gloomy, yet very detailed forecast. We were driving up to a town called Twillingate and heard a weather forecast on the radio that had us in tears. The presenter used the words “patchy fog, patchy drizzle” and “patches of patchy fog and patchy drizzle,” over and over and over again to describe the forecast in every town in Newfoundland, which has a climate almost as bad as the U.K.

“Why doesn’t he just save time and say the weather sucks in the whole province?” my wife asked, quite sensibly.

With the Olympic Games set to begin in London on July 27, one can’t help but wonder how much Britain’s notoriously wet weather will impact the events. According to a story in the Associated Press, five weather forecasters will be “embedded with the games and working around the clock, providing long- and short-range forecasts for the event.” But they could have 100 forecasters and it isn’t going to change the gloomy reality that the athletes can probably expect wet weather.

And yet, I rather prefer the chilly gloom to baking in the heat and humidity we have here in Washington. For those of us who call this place home, we’re more or less stuck here, but I feel compelled to pose a polite, yet pointed question to the tourist hordes that come here every year in July and August: why? What the hell are you thinking? Washington is wonderful in the spring and fall and miserable in the middle of summer.

Call me crazy but I’ll take 62 degrees and drizzle over 104 with humidity any day.