My father was essentially a peaceable man of even temper and positive disposition. However, he had his moments; he got angry with other drivers, possibly because they revealed how poor his own driving was (a family characteristic, I fear); he couldn’t stand English football commentators and he believed that the BBC weather forecast was an English conspiracy, intended to make Scotland out to be a cold, wet country unlike London, presented perpetually as ‘spread out in the sun/Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat’.
Of course, when I was young I thought this was just silly, but then, when I was young, I didn’t think about the weather. In the 1960’s, when I was a boy, those of you living then will recall, snow fell in the winter and it was often sunny in the summer holidays as I ran about in the Ochil hills. I prayed hard for rain on Tuesdays so that rugby would be cancelled. That’s just how the weather was back then, really quite dependable. Then when I was a student, I was barely aware of the seasons as I spent most of my time asleep, or in smoky rooms, occasionally studying – you could smoke in tutorials – or having indoor fun. Soon I was teaching, and, for the first few years, often went from Monday to Friday without seeing daylight, far less registering the weather, though I did continue to pray for rain, this time on Mondays, so that rugby would be cancelled. So my dad’s ongoing complaints about weather bias in the Beeb just seemed like one of the more unlikely facets of his messianic Scottish Nationalism.
But now, as an older man myself, I wonder. Being retired and interested in gardening, and, of course, in the past year often being dependent on dry weather to have any kind of social life [my goodness, how well I know Portobello promenade now] I am more or less obsessed with the weather forecast, and – you will be unsurprised to learn – it’s often very far from right. But the curious thing about the weather forecast for Edinburgh is that when it’s wrong, it is unfailingly wrong by predicting rain when there will, in fact, prove to be sunshine. I am sitting here this morning, admiring the cherry blossoms of nether Joppa, currently radiant in the sunshine, when the weather forecast was, an hour ago, telling me to be wary of 90% rain. It is a bit cloudy, but still. And thus it so often is. The week ahead has rain forecast for every day, but I bet some of these days don’t see a drop. I look to those reading this who are geographers or meteorologists to explain this phenomenon. I do admit that yesterday, right when the forecast predicted it, snow fell, in the process seeing off my New Guinea impatiens which looked, this morning, much like the cabbage my grandmother cooked for us when I was a child.
No one can deny that the weather has gone bonkers. I’m maybe a bit old to be too much invested in the climate emergency but it does seem that the weather is altogether hotter, colder, wetter and windier than it was even twenty years ago. Anyone with a garden hates wind more than anything. My proximity to the Firth of Forth – the water is about forty yards away when the tide is in – is an occasionally worry. I have a list in my head of the first things needing to be carried upstairs in the event of a flood. I know that I will not excel with sandbags.
I always think about my father a lot on election day. How amazed he would be to see the SNP – which he supported in the days of perpetual lost deposits – looking as if it might have an overall majority in a Parliament designed to never have an overall majority. He would be proud. He would also be demanding, as a first step in the new independent Scotland, a reliable weather forecast, or, if anything, one which accentuated the positive, like the old Scottish DJ who, at any point when the weather exceeded 12 degrees centigrade would bellow ‘It’s gonna be a SCORCHER!’