22 May 2006

You Know the Weather's Rubbish When...

...people from Scotland start complaining about it.

Ran into my friend George tonight, and before I could say a word, he started right in with, "This weather's bloody awful, isn't it?" For years - centuries, probably - this has been as common a greeting as "Hello" or "How are you?" among English people, but George is from Glasgow, and even though he's been in London for years, he's always maintained his Glaswegian ways and accent.

And while English people complain incessantly about the weather, it's rare to hear a Scotsman say a cross word about it. I can think of two possible reasons for this: a) that English weather, terrible as it is, is balmy and Mediterranean compared with Scotland; and b) acknowledging that they were the least bit discomfited or inconvenienced by freezing temperatures or howling gales or torrential downpours would deprive the Scots of the opportunity to sneer at soft Southerners and poncey Englishmen who don't know how easy they've got it.

Perhaps they complain about the weather in their own country, but I've spent a few weeks in Scotland and never noticed it. On the contrary, I've heard Scottish people say with perfectly straight faces, "Lovely day, isn't it?" as an Arctic gale whipped horizontal sheets of freezing rain across my face. "Bit of rain never hurt anyone," they'd add, "just makes the flowers grow all the brighter." I think I even recall one day in Scotland when it didn't rain, which prompted the closest thing to a complaint about the weather I'd heard from a Scotsman until George's outburst today: "If this keeps up, the country's going to dry up and blow away."

When I was newer here, I once remarked that while the American national pastime was supposed to be baseball (or, in an alternate view, making money), the English national pastime seemed to be complaining, most notably about the weather. Danny, my journalist friend, immediately corrected me. "English people don't complain," he said. "Americans complain. Complaining implies that you expect something to be done about the problem. English people know nothing is ever going to be done, so they just moan. If it weren't for moaning about the weather, half the conversations in this country might never get started."

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