PTT, Dave Unwin
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.