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Why does the Express blow so hot and cold?
WHATEVER the weather, you can be sure the Daily Express newspaper is getting its thermal undies in a twist.
It is often said that as a nation we are obsessed with the weather, and if that is so then the Express is the perfect conduit. Other newspapers also report on the weather, of course, but few can hold a guttering candle in a storm to the self-proclaimed world’s greatest newspaper.
If that front-page boast seems a little hard to swallow, it is perhaps true that the Express is the world’s greatest stirrer-up of storms in teacups. Only it won’t be a storm, it will be a hurricane; a hurricane in a mug, perhaps.
This train of thought was set rolling last week. One day, the Express was warning that April’s wet weather would be continuing; the next, it found a weatherman who was prepared to predict that we were facing the coldest May in 100 years “as winter roars back”.
So here is the news for April: it’s raining. And watch out, May might be a bit chilly. Now that the Princess of Wales is well and truly dead, I suppose the Express does need something to keep its readers animated, and the weather seems to fit the bill nicely.
The newspaper does have form for this sort of climactic hyperbole, with past classics including BIG SIBERIAN FREEZE TO HIT BRITAIN, -20C TO HIT US IN WEEKS. BIG FREEZE AS ‘BEAST FROM THE EAST’ ROARS IN and, after a cold spell, NOW FOOD IS RUNNING OUT.
This need to keep us all in a state of frenzied anxiety about the weather must take some doing. If you wanted to pick a country in which to be a paranoid panic-pants about the weather, Britain would probably not be your first choice.
Our weather is mild, moderate and not all that interesting. It rains more than we would like, although not at the right time, so we still have hosepipe bans. Sometimes it gets a bit warm (allowing newspapers such as the Express to get a very hot under the collar) and sometimes it turns rather cold (allowing the obligatory mention of Siberia).
In fact it occurs to me that the good and chilled people of Siberia might sometimes weary of the constant service their country pays to the British media. I like to imagine that when the weather waxes grey, mild and dull, the Siberian newspapers scream: “IT’S ALL GONE A BIT BRITISH” or perhaps “OH DEAR! IMPORTED BRITISH WEATHER DISAPPOINTS A BIT.”
There is a gap here between the reality, which is that our weather does often disappoint, and the tenor of the reporting, which tends to suggest the last man standing, up on a rooftop and shouting in a storm while the tiles skitter about his feet and the storm waters rise. And, quite possibly, uninvited foreigners try to join him on the roof.
Indeed, this obligatory Siberian parallel fits with those newspapers who like to stir up anxiety and anger about outsiders. It’s foreign weather, you see, and not our weather at all.
Perhaps the editor of the Daily Express really wanted to be a weatherman when he was a boy. An interest in the weather can take one over. On BBC Look North, the forecaster has become a local celebrity and has even lost his surname in the process: ‘Hudson’ has been ejected in favour of ‘Paul The Weatherman’, as if that really were his name. Perhaps it is: maybe he changed in by deed poll or at the very least re-christened himself with water from a Yorkshire puddle.
Now I don’t know about you, but I seem to have survived the food shortages caused by snow. I have weathered the Siberian blast and somehow still seem to be here. I have emerged soggy but upright into the final damp days of April and I am hoping that May won’t be that bad.
Thinking back to all those times the Siberian winter failed to fully materialise, perhaps we will be all right after all.