PTT, Dave Unwin

Pilot - - CONTENTS -

When is a storm not a storm? Is the Met Of­fice over-nam­ing?

When did an At­lantic low be­come a ‘weather bomb’? The odd tree was down [but] the world hadn’t ended...

Stand­ing in the queue at the su­per­mar­ket, I was im­pressed by the amount of food in the trol­ley of the young woman in front. “Got peo­ple com­ing round,” I en­quired in­no­cently. “Oh no” she replied “Storm Doris is go­ing to hit to­mor­row — I’m stock­ing up!”

Now I don’t want you all to think I’m turn­ing into one of those Grumpy Old Men that used to blight our TVS a while back by mum­bling straight to cam­era while stat­ing the bleed­ing ob­vi­ous, but — for good­ness’ sake — it’s Fe­bru­ary in Bri­tain, you’d ex­pect a bit of bad weather! At what point did we start nam­ing win­ter storms, and when did an At­lantic low be­come a ‘weather bomb’? When I was young (OK, back in the last cen­tury, but not that far back) we were not sur­prised or pan­icked by a lit­tle in­clement win­ter weather. It was, af­ter all, win­ter; the clue was in the ti­tle.

I usu­ally lis­ten to the ra­dio while I write and, even as I as worked on this PTT, I could hear a jour­nal­ist breath­lessly re­port­ing live from some­where a bit breezy. Why was this hys­ter­i­cal am­a­teur on na­tional ra­dio, I won­dered? He sounded like a cub re­porter from a lo­cal news­pa­per. Look­ing out of my win­dow, Storm Doris ap­peared to be in full flow, and while I cer­tainly wouldn’t have wanted to go fly­ing and was quite glad I’d se­cured the kids’ tram­po­line (which ap­peared to be quite keen to go fly­ing), my im­pres­sion re­ally wasn’t that — in the words of a great REM song ‘It’s The End of the World As We Know It’ — it was just a tad breezy out there.

When did we lose both our col­lec­tive co­jones and com­mon sense? Prob­a­bly about the same time they started putting ‘Cau­tion — Hot Liq­uid’ on cof­fee cups, or started mak­ing you wear a bright yel­low hi-viz vest to walk across the apron of a sleepy pro­vin­cial air­field in broad day­light. I once met some­one who couldn’t be­lieve the farm strip where my Jodel lives doesn’t have fire cover, and when I said I hand­propped it to get it go­ing... well, I thought he was go­ing to faint. And while I’m hav­ing a bit of a rant, some­thing else that re­ally ‘nicks my prop’ is how when­ever some­one buys it in a prang the in­ter­web is flooded with sanc­ti­mo­nious, self-serv­ing ghouls who either deftly (and swiftly) work some sort of neb­u­lous con­nec­tion with the dearly de­parted into their ‘trib­ute’, or sim­ply say “thoughts are with the fam­i­lies” when we all know noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. I be­lieve this par­tic­u­lar malaise (some­times re­ferred to as ‘mourn­ing sick­ness’) first ap­peared in the wake of the sainted Diana’s death, some twenty years ago, when al­most all of the UK was gripped by a weird col­lec­tive mad­ness. And if you’re think­ing I can be so blasé be­cause I have no ex­pe­ri­ence of such things — wrong. I have watched two good friends die vi­o­lent deaths in air­craft ac­ci­dents, was the first on the scene to try to help, and then sub­se­quently for­mally iden­ti­fied their bod­ies. And let me tell you, that is a task that doesn’t get any eas­ier with rep­e­ti­tion.

I do some­times won­der what it is with these mil­len­ni­als who are both risk- and con­fronta­tion-averse, take of­fence at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and re­quire ‘safe spa­ces’. I even read re­cently that a Lon­don the­atre was go­ing to in­tro­duce ‘trig­ger warn­ings’ to in­form pa­trons if some­thing scary, shock­ing or of­fen­sive was about to oc­cur. How lame is that?

But to re­turn to avi­a­tion — can you imag­ine if our aero­nau­ti­cal fore­fa­thers had been as risk averse as the modern mil­len­nial? No-one would have ever had the courage to chal­lenge grav­ity! This year is the for­ti­eth an­niver­sary of the Apollo 1 dis­as­ter, when as­tro­nauts Gus Gris­som, Ed White and Roger Chaf­fee died on the launch pad when their cap­sule caught fire. NASA ac­knowl­edged there had been mis­takes, rec­ti­fied those mis­takes — and four years later Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. These days the en­quiry into the ac­ci­dent would take at least four years, and the project would even­tu­ally have to be can­celled be­cause all the fund­ing had been con­sumed by lawyers’ fees.

Post­script. The fol­low­ing day was just per­fect for buzzing about in Buzz, so I launched into a flaw­less win­ter sky and flew a low-level recce around the lo­cal area. As you might ex­pect af­ter a bit of a blow there were quite a few branches and even the odd tree down. How­ever — and so far as I could tell, the world hadn’t ended. In fact it was all most agree­able, and af­ter a lovely lit­tle bim­ble I popped Buzz back into the shed, hopped in my car and headed for home. Al­most with­out think­ing I turned on the ra­dio, and they were talk­ing about the af­ter­math of Storm Doris.

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