Friday, November 17, 2006


Last night I was watching the weather report after the news at ten with my wife Mary.

I wish they could just stick a magnetic black cloud on London with several fierce looking droplets falling to earth as they used to in ye olden nineteen seventies. Instead the funky cool new graphics wibbled and wobbled and went through various shades of blue. It means the same thing though. The BBC think it's going to piss with rain tomorrow. The time graphic next to the display said 8am. This meant it would be raining as I set off for work. At this point Mary asked me if I'd brought the brolly home. No. I left it at the bookshop. We then proceeded to have the kind of ridiculous argument that makes married life such bliss and all those who are not wed (or living in sin as we did for about ten years) glad of their solitude.

Don't worry, I'm not going to start blogging about my home life (only Finn! - he's irresistible)

My point is that I just walked to Lower Marsh from Camberwell and it only started raining as I turned into the street. By the time I'd opened the shop it had stopped. By the looks of it outside it is now raining, but only a very little - hardly enough to justify all those ridiculous graphics. (The old ladies have their headscarves on but they're still out there haggling with the market traders!)

The BBC (and all other weather people) should still use magnetic clouds because that suggests that what they are saying WILL happen is in fact merely a GOOD GUESS.

Weather folk face it. You don't know what the weather is going to do. After every broadcast you should replay poor old Michael Fish and the hurricane and shrug at your audience.

I suppose there is a vaguely serious point here as well. Nobody can predict the future. And when you start trying it is easy to end up in a ridiculous position. As with the BAs Brave New World report and all our talk about Print on Demand it really is all talk. Nobody can say exactly how things will pan out despite the efforts (and often huge sums of money) that are invested in an attempt to shape the future to our liking.

Climate science falls into the same category. While I do not doubt that human activity is influencing the climate and other aspects of the world I have little time for people that claim to be able to predict how things will change in the future. The best models are still just guesses. As for the precautionary principle (the idea that it is better to act now - just in case) look at where that got George Bush in Iraq...

The Universe is unpredictable. And that's a great thing! We should embrace it. As Erling Kagge pointed out when I interviewed him about his book Philosophy For Polar Explorers this means that it is very very difficult to prove that a thing is impossible.

Or as the final lines of Journey By Moonlight by Antal Szerb put it:

And while there is life there is always the chance that something might happen...


  1. I hope they had something the size of an ocean hanging over the West Country because we have had torrential gale force and more here all night.I'm also impressed at you being able to use an umbrella because we have given up on such frivolities which is why we all go out dressed like lifeboatmen and wellies are de rigeur and why I get such funny looks when I venture to the big smoke...dressed like a lifeboatman. I must resurrect my brolly for city use.

  2. Marie's brolly has polka dots on it and everything!

    Mine (er Mary's) is plain black.

    Adam cycles so umbrellas are not a good idea. He has a kind of updated lifeboatman outfit though. On wet days it looks like THE THING coming in to work at C & P.

  3. You are welcome to one of our Family Sayings as it was pinched from another family. My god-daughter, when aged 6, had maintained in an argument with her older brother, that a certain programme was on tv at a certain hour... it turned out that brother had been right all along, when the programme was flagged up on screen. Harriet burst into tears and rushed from the room shouting 'And anyway, the BBC are liars.'
    We always employ this wondrous phrase when anything is wrong, from the News to the Weather Forecast to the plot of EastEnders.

  4. When I were a little lad my favourite program was Champion the Wonder Horse. One day I settled down in front of the telly and instead of Uncle Sandy, Ricky and his wonderful horse they were showing the cricket.

    I was outraged and my mum suggested I wrote a letter to the BBC to complain.

    I did.

    They replied.

    On neatly typed headed paper they explained that more people wanted to watch the cricket than Champion the Wonder Horse.

    I KNEW they were lying!

  5. The BBC never replied to my complaints about Children's TV scheduling - you must have been more polite in you letter (or just more legible) than I was, Matthew.
    As it turns out, I'd now much prefer to have the cricket on the BBC than Philip Schofield and Gordon the Gofer ... or was it Ed the Duck?

  6. They were lying because my brother and I loved Champiooooon the Wonder Horse and so that makes at least 3 of us who watched it, I am singing the theme tune right now to prove it.Did you watch Torchy the Battery Boy as well or did you prefer Twizzle?

  7. Go here for clips and theme tune!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!