At the End of the Day

Most of you won’t have noticed, but high technology is at last being applied to UK weather: last night, BBCNews informed the British people that they were about to get frost-free damp. We’ve been accustomed to frost-free fridges for a good twenty years already, but at last the weather – albeit damp – was going to be frost-free too.

How the joy must have been uncontained throughout the Island Race last night. Personally, I have never suffered from damp frost, chiefly because the frozen nature of frost tends to make it damp-free: but I have no doubt that in truly appalling places in Britain like the West Midlands, it is possible to have your teeth chattering and fingers going gangrenous thanks to frost, while one’s feet feel inexplicably damp. I bet Dudley gets like that at times. I don’t know why, I just bet it does.

Once one drifts past mid-September in Britain, it is vital to keep up popular morale by suggesting that things could be worse. Saying stuff like, “Just think – you could be waking up in Pompeii a few minutes before Vesuvius is about to bury you alive” doesn’t hit the mark somehow. You’re glad not be in the Philippines, because they had an appalling storm disaster just two weeks ago. But being relieved not to be involved in something that happened 30 generations ago before Italy was even Italy is to say the least of it a bit random.

So it is that we are forced to fall back on terms like ‘frost-free damp’. We’re undergoing a recovery, but it’s jobless. We’re getting dampness, but it’s frostless. We’re all going to drown, but at least none of us will die a horrible death as martyrs on the bonfire. Phew.

My Grandad was born in Dudley. He used to say, when somebody mentioned they’d had seven teeth removed without anaesthetic, “Well at least it’s nice to be alive and moaning about it”.

Small mercies. Brits like me born halfway through the last century were brought up on them. The queues were always long, but the mercies were small. “Worse things happen at sea,” my great aunt Lizzie used to say. She had twenty-two teeth removed with very little anaesthetic in 1941, because “the bloody things hurt me day and night”. Somehow, she had faith in the idea that more pain would one day lead inevitably to no pain. Berlin feels the same way about Greece today, but then Berlin isn’t the one feeling the pain. Bernanke has the same idea about more US debt one day turning into no debt: and yet somehow one can’t help feeling that his mission is to ensure that bankers and politicians feel no pain whatsoever.

Once upon a time, pretty much all of us were stoical. Nowadays we become hysterical about the slightest danger. This is why we have to be coaxed along about even a bit of late-Autumn chill….and yet at the same time warned to fear things we needn’t really fear. After the weather bit about damp being better than frost, the BBCNews Channel quickly followed up with a headlined item that began with the anchor proclaiming, “MRSI has been found for the first time in East Anglian chickens”. Knuckles went white and teeth were clenched, until a pointy-head scientist said that avian MRSI never caused anything beyond a slight chill or occasionally a harmless skin rash among humans.

And I thought, “Then WTF is it doing up there as a main news item?” Well to answer myself, I’m wondering if this sort of non-news gets on air so that a new generation’s great aunt Lizzie can say, “Pah! That’s nothing….yer Uncle Bert and me got cholera once, and never had so much as an hour off work”. Or is it, perhaps, so that when RBS, Lloyds and Barclays all fall down on the same day, TV newscasters can say, “Ne’er mind, it could be worse: the Treasury could be bankrupt”.

I don’t have much to add to all that really. I’m back online with a new router, but as for continuous internet service….well, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Earlier at The Slog: Paying the bill for global gluttony