A British Obsession

Image: © Davy D Writer

‘Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.’

Oscar Wilde

A winter chill has returned. The balmy and uncharacteristic 16 degrees centigrade, experienced a few weeks ago here in the UK, has gone. Outside of the writing den the temperature has dropped to minus seven degrees. The trees and garden look like they have been doused in talcum powder.

More reason for staying indoors and getting on with some January tasks I always set myself, procrastinating through them until the arrival of spring. One such task is sorting out my bookshelves. A Christmas gift from my wife was the book, Bibliomaniac – An Obsessive’s Tour Of The Bookshops Of Britain, written by Robin Ince. Anybody who has a love of books, or is a book hoarder, like me, would enjoy the story, which is described as, ‘an addiction and a romance,’

Bibliomaniac gave me a nudge to rest and donate some books and create room for any new ones acquired in the coming year. As I write, I have noticed every available piece of floor space is covered with book piles. All I seem to be achieving is moving them from shelves to floor.

Another thing I noticed is the number of books I own relating to weather. Here is a snapshot.

  • Gigantic Cinema:  A Weather Anthology – Edited by Alice Oswald and Paul Keegan
  • Thirty Clouds – George Szirtes and Clarissa Upchurch
  • Somewhere Becoming Rain – Clive James
  • A Cloud A Day – Gavin Pretor-Pinney
  • Rain: Four Walks in English Weather – Melissa Harrison

Along with tea drinking and queuing, it appears I have acquired an extra British obsession, the weather.

‘It Looks Like Rain’

In 2018, a survey of 2,000 people, commissioned by Bristol Airport, suggested the average British person spends the equivalent of four and a half months of their life talking about weather. Fifty percent said chatting about sunshine or rain is their go-to subject when making small talk.

Other surveys found that 94 percent of Brits have conversed about weather in the past six hours, while 38 percent say they have in the past 60 minutes.

According to British anthropologist, Kate Fox, ‘at almost any moment in time in this country, at least a third of the population is either talking about the weather, has already done so, or is about to do so.’

It is good to discover I am near normal, as I was contemplating adding weather to a multitude of other stresses and obsessions writers acquire over time. A carpet of books is staring at me begging to be put back on the shelves. The sun has just appeared from a gathering of cumulus clouds and is calling me outside. Procrastination is alive and kicking in this part of the world.

Have you any obsessions you would like to share? I would love to find out about them. Have a sunny weekend.



22 thoughts on “A British Obsession

  1. How interesting and funny! I wonder how talking about weather compares to talking about football for British people? Because even as an American, I find myself talking about British football with friends on a regular basis. 🙂

    Happy reading, Davy!

    1. You have just reminded me about another obsession, Wynne 😂. Football is more akin to a religion here than a conversation. Fortunately my wife and I share the same obsession (and the same team). I hope your conversations are about Fulham FC? (That’s our team.)

  2. Lol. So funny … and so true. Where were you about a month ago when I did an ESOL class about the weather – and our obsession with it! 🙃

  3. I’m in the UK, also, Davy. It was -7C here the other night, too. I agree; the trees and grass looked so pretty, covered in frost. Tonight is going to be positively balmy at -2C!

    I don’t know anyone who doesn’t regularly comment on the weather, either. I don’t know why we British folk are so obsessed with it. I’m not sure how often I discuss this topic with others, possibly not as often as some, as I live alone (with my cat, and she won’t converse with me on the matter!) When I have a friend over or I’m in company, I’m pretty sure the subject raises its head. When I speak to my sister in Australia, we always discuss it.

    I love your expression, ‘A carpet of books is staring at me’. I seem to gather books everywhere; some read, some only partly, and some I intend to read, or I’ve gone off the book’s subject. You’ve inspired me to tidy them up now. Perhaps, tomorrow … 😊

    1. Having books everywhere, Ellie, is the sign of an inquisitive mind. (That’s what I tell myself.) Talking about weather perhaps provides safe ground to start a conversation. Like you, it always seems to be on the agenda when I talk to family members. Have a good weekend and thank you for your thoughts.

  4. Here in the US, I’m afraid the weather has become the last topic of safe, neutral and civilized conversation, and even it is now tainted with sarcastic comments about climate change. I try not to let the weather dictate my attitude, but it often does. Take yesterday… I started off sunny and bright to match the weather, but as the clouds, cold and wind moved in, I felt a noticeable change in my mood and all plans of writing in a shaft of sunlight came to an end. I instead curled up with the avalanche of books on my night stand.
    🙂 Alicia

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Alicia. I agree about the weather being a mood changer. During the day I like the sunshine, though not too hot. In the evening, especially when its dark, I love wind and rain. There is no better sound than rain battering on a bedroom window. It always reminds me of childhood. Have a good weekend.

      1. Well, unfortunately WordPress stats. But truthfully, they are all fairly controlled now because my Tourette medication happens to zero in on OCD too. I used to be ridiculous.

      2. I think we all get pulled in by stats, Jeff. No matter which we play them the brain is always looking to go higher. The WordPress stats are always doing that to me.

  5. When out walking the dogs, you can guarantee that if anyone stops to asks about the dogs, they go on to talk about the weather. I guess it’s because we’re outside at the time and it’s there with us, so it’s a great subject to talk about or mention as we pass or stop for a quick chat.

    The other obsession seems to be what we’ve watched on TV recently, although those conversations can be very one-sided if only one of the party have watched what is being discussed.

    Love the new subscription box at the end of your post, Davy 😉

    1. Thanks, Hugh. And it’s another thank you for your last post which showed me how to add a subscription box. Glad you like it. I’m with you on the TV obsessions. My current one is Happy Valley.

      1. I’ve never watched Happy Valley but I do like Sarah Lancashire as an actor. She has come a very long way since her days as playing Raquel Wolstenhulme in Coronation Street.

  6. A very witty reflection upon small talk. I suppose the weather is one of the most common and safest topics to touch and elaborate upon. The fact that it’s general and applies to everyone makes it personal and interesting. Books can be the greatest companions. It appears that you and your buddies enjoy camping together. Haha. I think the next topic after weather is probably children (for those who have) which again is as unimaginative as it gets. I prefer just keeping quiet. Have a great weekend, Davy. 🙂

    1. I much prefer the company of books these days, Terveen. There is so much in today’s world that can be difficult to navigate in a conversation. As you say, that is why we probably tend to stick to the safer subjects. And books rarely argue😂. Thank you for your thoughts and hope your Sunday is going well.

  7. That’s a pretty interesting observation about Brits and small talk about the weather. I’ve noticed something similar in Malaysia (or between Chinese people, in general). They always start small talk with ‘have you eaten?’ Maybe cultures play a role in the ‘small talk starters’.

    1. That is interesting to know, Stuart. I never considered culture being part of this. It would be interesting to see how other cultures tackle the art of small talk. I’d much rather be talking about food than weather. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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