Sunday, January 23, 2011

Smells like teen... um, I can't remember.

We had a musical challenge in our office this week. After a heated debate on the importance of Radiohead’s 'Ok Computer' (we are such wankers) the challenge was set to spend the weekend listening to a definitive album from another person’s youth. 

Luckily this isn’t a music blog (or you’d be hearing my review of Suede’s ‘Dog Man Star’ right now) but what this musical reminiscing did make me think of was how often the weather had been a part of our seminal music moments. (Of course I thought that…) When you draw on your favourite musical memories where does the weather feature? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find the answer is, more prominently than you think. 

Here are a few of my examples to help you jog the memory bank.
  • A scorching Adelaide Big Day Out wearing the skimpiest of outfits along with five girlfriends (clearly all matching). Trying to squeeze doc martin clad feet into a jammed pit for Smashing Pumpkins, sunburn and sweaty, huge, shirtless men with Southern Cross tattoos be damned. I WOULD be at the front for 1979.
  • The six hour, 13 chilly degrees line up for Red Hot Chili Peppers wearing naught but a Hole-era floral dress and the aforementioned doc martins, which turned into a sweet love affair with a boy and his Offspring hoody. Went downhill when a full beer was pegged at me for being a precocious little twat during Regurgitator’s support.
  • One summer (which coincidently is a great Darryl Braithwaite song from my youth) when I tried to sneak in underage to The Mavis’s concert in Victor Harbour and had a deluge of rain to thank for granting my passage. (Pitying security guard and sodden skirt over pants outfit also given gratitude.)  
  • The amazing weather performance during The Strokes at the Sydney Big Day Out, which saw them playing in a dramatic and violent thunderstorm only to be followed by Metallica and the weather turning it up and putting on a lightning show!! Exit light indeed.
  • The day I discovered Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’ and broke up with a boy, made all the bitter sweeter by the raining drifting like my tears down the bedroom window pane (okay I’m getting ridiculous here, and possibly channelling an episode of Dawson’s Creek. I don’t think this ever happened).

The point is that the weather can be a memory stimulator.  We feel the weather with all our senses. We hear the rain coming, we smell it’s scent on hot asphalt, we can taste it’s icy form, we watch it filling up puddles and feel it dampening our back as we run back from getting the washing in. The weather can help us conjure up a time, a place, a person, an outfit, an embarrassment, it helps us rebuild our memories in all it’s forms. 
What do you think the jogger is for you? Is it the night flower (I’ve been told it’s jasmine) whose scent wafts during the first, darkening nights of summer? Is it the gentle patter of rain above, transporting you back to your grandparent’s farm? Are the first icy winds of the coming winter making you want to pull out a photo album of browning polaroids and old Christmas cards? Well next time you reminisce, give the weather a little credit for bringing it all back.

Remember how awesome the weather was that time? 

London tomorrow, more of the quite pleasant winter weather we’ve been having, bit sunny, bit cloudy, bit chilly. There is a northerly a blowin’, so if you have a compass walk south. 

(And for those wondering, yes, I was told to listen to Suede’s 'Dog Man Star'. Never really being a Suede fan I found it surprisingly sophisticated and Bowie-esque. Myself? I passed on You Am I’s ‘Hourly, Daily’. Sigh.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The problem, you see, is the rain.

The amazing images coming from Queensland, Australia this week have been, quite frankly, amazing.  Don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced the kind of jaw dropping amazement which only comes from someone who had never ever thought bull sharks could swim their way down to the shops, and who absolutely cannot conceptualise the sheer size of the area affected by gushing, life taking water. A space larger than France and Germany, combined?? With news that 43 towns in Victoria have now experienced flooding (including my sister! renovated kitchen and all) we’re probably feeling that this is a once in a lifetime event. This has to be a tragedy that will never be repeated, it’s not like we need to get used to this kind of performance?

What’s interesting is that as Australians we SHOULD be used to the weather being this ferocious. We’ve regularly fielded the rough hand balls from Mother Nature which force us to live up to the endearment, ‘Aussie Battler’.  Sizzling droughts leading to destructive bushfires, force of a gale winds tearing roofs from houses, and of course the brown, murky waters of the flood. A recent piece in the UK’s Guardian has Germaine Greer asking “Australian floods: Why were we so surprised?” Greer describes the multiple warnings we’ve been given from Meteorologists over the past ten years about the ‘La Nina’ weather system. La Neens results in water-laden air dropping its cooling load over a land mass (Aus in this case) and apparently computer modelling has shown that this system would be super likely in 2010. There was even a comment from the Bureau in June last year giving us a six month heads up that it was going to be a wet one. 

Read about this in Germaine’s article

Aussies, do you remember this? Were you watching the ABC TV weatherman (I feel like his name is Graham? Is it? Still?) and were subsequently shocked into a pre-emptive action plan to protect your property, your family and your tomato plants from the coming deluge? Guesses are not, because as Australians we let that news wash over us (bad choice of words) for something to deal with on a rainy day (ohh, and again).  Was it the choice of words that stopped us from taking notice? If Graham had gesticulated madly and shouted, "Look Juanita, it is going to bucket down like you wouldn’t believe for MONTHS, resulting in people being able to surf on your front lawn", would we have been spurred into action? 

Germaine Greer has an opinion on our reasons for inaction (she is mad for an opinion) but I did find her an interesting choice of author for this article. She has long been an inspiration for a certain kind of woman, but never before had we seen potential for her as spokesperson for the weather watchers… until this paragraph:

“British people might think that they're rain experts. Truth is that they hardly know what rain is. The kind of cold angel sweat that wets British windscreens isn't proper rain. For weeks now rain has been drumming in my ears, leaping off my corrugated steel roof, frothing through the rocks, spouting off the trees, and running, running, running past my house and down into the gully, into the little creek, into the bigger creek, and on to the Nerang river and out to sea at Southport. “

Oh Germaine! The poetry! Seriously, angel sweat? I knew she could be a woman after my own heart, but she’s propelled herself into an entirely different league. This kind of descriptive weather watching is what likens this art to say, wine tasting. You drink in the elements, really taste them, and wait for the words to swim their way to your lips.

So, as a result of the scale of this flooding there’s now going to be a lot of discussion about government preparation, strategies and whether or not to mince words. That debate won’t rage here, but what we will look at it, with awe, is the enormity of the weather’s power and know to never take it for granted. Mother Nature is indeed a cruel mistress.

Frog riding a snake.  

London tomorrow, you don’t know what rain is! So when the forecast calls for ‘heavy rain’ don’t be fooled. You wont be meeting a flathead outside your office. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's raining men! (And birds. And some rain.)

It has been raining a weird amount of shit lately. Actual rain has seen water cover (using this word literally) an area the size of France AND Germany, but in Australia.  Snow is still falling (so sweetly) on much of northern England, and in Beebe, Arkansas, a blackbird storm hit town.
(Ignore the use of THOUSANDS in the headline, which is subsequently downgraded to hundreds in the bulk of the article. I’ve already sent this to media watch).

On New Years Eve ‘thousands’ of blackbirds fell from the sky in Beebe, in a terrifying night of fireworks of the worst possible kind. This raining birds thing is something I hope to never experience, having an extreme fear of birds (yes, from taking film studies), plus not feeling I really have the right kind of umbrella for such a day. We might have to prepare though, because this PT Anderson* moment doesn’t seem to be an isolated phenomenon. Avian raindrops have recently been seen falling across other parts of the US, and even Sweden. (I’m wary of the Swedes at the best of times and this, where birds are being piffed at your head from above, is surely not even close to the okay of times.) Why is the sky no longer holding up our feathered friends? (Not my friends, but possibly yours.)

A genuine signal of the end of the world, I hear you ask??  Birds rising up to take on their human oppressors with a really average, kamikaze style plan? Debate has raged, as it should, on the reasons why such an occurrence, occurred, and well know expert Kirk Cameron from Growing Pains added a pinch of his thoughts to the pot.

Kirk Cameron seems to be a religious spokesperson now, with about 80 (6) children. He suggests that falling birds as a religious sign of the apocalypse is more from pagan, rather than Christian, mythology, so don’t panic. He then complains about the state of American politics.

Thanks for that Kirk.  His even approach does make you think that whilst looking apocalyptic (like when you leave your house and don’t see any cars or people and for about 3 seconds you think you could be the only person left on earth, until, oops, there’s the postman) maybe there are more than terrifying, supernatural reasons for this bird rain.   

This is what national geographic have to say.

Sensible and calm, as you’d expect for Nat G. They pretty much say birds lose it in flight all the time and it’s coincidental that these occurrences, occurred, during a pretty slow news day. They do sport this little sentence of joy in the report. "Young birds that hatch in the spring have an approximately 75 percent chance of not reaching their first birthdays.” Sucks to be a bird, even with the joy of flight.

So whilst being super creepy, and potentially disease riddled, whatever side you take there may not be anything to worry about with this whole animals being rain thing. Store your raining cats and dogs pants for another day.


London tomorrow, something has seriously changed for 9 degrees to feel positively balmy. It’ll be mild as tomorrow, but take a brolly in the off chance of something, anything (probably water), falling from the sky.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Around this time, when we're making definitive statements about how to approach our brand new, shiny year, we sometimes need a bit of guidance. How do we articulate all the fantastic changes we plan to make, how incredibly self improving we’re going to be, how much better a weather respecter? Well I don’t know how you’re going to lose weight, become a nicer person or change that Year Two haircut, but here are some ways to make your weather watching pipe dreams a reality.

Buy a barometer.* Hang it outside your front door and give it a light tap occasionally on your way to the shops. You care about the humidity. That's what a barometer says.

Invest in a pair of shoes that scream winter, walking time. These should be very, very sturdy and therefore unattractive. Now you look like a dedicated weather adventurer!

Learn the names of the different cloud formations. Take black and white photos of your favourite, frame them, and display in your bathroom. Go cirrus!

Start mentioning the weather in the middle of conversations. Beginning a chat with the weather is boring and predictable; don’t relegate the weather to small talk! Bring it up during the intense conversation listing the pros and cons of wikileaks and whether Julian Assange is a douche. Your chatting partner will be both surprised and pleased.

Pay attention to the local television weather reporting and determine your best forecaster based on their graphics, ability to follow green screen and how good their weather puns are. The forecast was for freezing rain, and sure enough it was an ice day!!” Write them a fan letter.

Learn from your fave presenter and try to include weather references and metaphors in your everyday conversation. "My, your sweater is very autumnal." "This conversation is experiencing a cold snap!" Oh, how you'll laugh.

Self improvement is admirable and occasionally achievable. In 2011 you can start a new decade by being the best weather watcher you can be. At least for the month of January.

London tomorrow, who the hell cares, we’re back at WORK! It’s not like we could be taking advantage of any unexpected warm spell, cooped up in the office. Wear a tracksuit.

* For trainspotters a barometer doesn’t actually measure humidity, it gauges the atmospheric pressure. But no one else knows that, and a barometer looks cooler. We MUST maintain the cool.