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English Obsession with the Weather

Updated on September 17, 2020
ethel smith profile image

With a keen interest in British politics this writer is never afraid to share her opinion

The English obsession with the weather and our weather’s strange behaviour is not a new phenomenon.

It is not linked to global warming, climate change, cows producing to much wind or whatever other crank theory is doing the rounds right now.

Neither does it appear strange to me because I am young and have nothing to compare modern weather to. I am not.

English weather has always displayed extremely erratic patterns

However although I know all of the above I am in line with so many other English people and seem to be obsessed with our peculiar weather.

In the good old summertime 21st century style. Well at least we had something to talk about

Click thumbnail to view full-size
It even rains on the QueenSo much for fancy hats at the races for Ladies DayA day to appreciate
It even rains on the Queen
It even rains on the Queen
So much for fancy hats at the races for Ladies Day
So much for fancy hats at the races for Ladies Day
A day to appreciate
A day to appreciate

Looking back

If I cast my mind back to the 1950s I look through my rose coloured glasses and see my friends and I happily skipping in the summer sun, building snowmen in winter, watching the flowers begin to bloom in spring and running through piles of fallen leaves in traditional autumn weather.

Each season used to run true to form, or did it?

Of course these memories are fairly accurate but it is the frequency of their occurrence which I doubt.

It was not always lovely weather in summer and yes there were times when we had snow out of season.

Memories are made of this

In reality the great English weather always has liked to have fun with this country’s population.

As a child in the 1950s and early 1960s money was in rather short supply in our home. It was that post war period which held so much promise of better days to follow but times were tough.

We usually managed some sort of vacation each year but nothing foreign or exotic.

However we usually had great fun.

Sometimes we would spend a week or two at a caravan park just outside of Withernsea, a local small seaside resort.

It was never much to write home about but as kids we loved it. There were plenty of attractions back then plus there was a great beach.

Our residence was a caravan of sorts

Our accommodation back then was a converted railway carriage.with wooden steps outside to gain access. For kids this was a brilliant place to stay but the weather was not always kind.

In fact more often than not the weather was dreadful.

One particular two-week vacation in August had to be abandoned after just a few days.

Torrential rain began to make the caravans sink.

Our converted railway carriage was the first to give up the ghost.

The final straw was when other husbands were carrying their wives across a seemingly ever increasing lake of water while Dad flatly refused to carry Mum who was no lightweight.

The vacation was cut short and we returned home.

A re-think was necessary for the next year's summer holidays

At that time local buses sold what was called a weekly rover ticket.

For one price each ticket offered as many bus journeys as you wanted within a specific area for one week. The area included Hornsea, Withernsea, Bridlington and Scarborough in Yorkshire and represented great value to us.

That is it would have been great value if not for the weather.

Three particular memories spring to mind


I cast my mind back to the sea-front at Scarborough one very wet and windy summer's day.

The icy blast of the North Sea is making it feel more like winter than high summer and the tourists are going home on mass.

Not us though.

We are made of sterner stuff.

Dad is sure that the weather will improve as the day moves on.

Luckily our Rover tickets include travel on the buses at any of the resorts.

So we take a few trips around the town on the bus.

We catch a bus to Bridlington and travel around there for a while.

The weather has not improved but Dad feels sure it might have in Scarborough.

An hour's bus journey later and we are riding around a sodden Scarborough again.

Finally, Dad has to accept defeat and a very soggy family return home, beaten.


This time it is a very cold, wet and windy day in Bridlington on the east coast of Yorkshire.

Most of the day trippers, like us, have arrived ill-prepared for the weather, as we have seen a glorious start to the day.

There is a run on the shops.

Goods are flying off the shelves.

What goods?

Plastic see through macs, umbrellas and rain-mates.

You remember those see through plastic hats? Those that look as if the wearer has put a plastic bag on their head.

After much jostling Mum finally bags what she can. My mac is about ten sizes too big. I know I was a tubby child but really!

As we all get buttoned up outside the Woolworth's store I catch sight of myself in the shop window. I was probably aged about eight. I am wearing a mac that goes down to my ankles, with sleeves that reach my knees. Thank God YouTube did not exist then.


I recall there was a brand new open air swimming pool at Withernsea and it was bustling.

We had arrived at Withernsea for the day and it was beautiful and sunny. No there was no rain.

It was a glorious summer's day or was it?

Mum did not swim but she helped my brother and I get ready to enjoy the pool.

Dad loved swimming and was fearless.

As he hastily put on his swimming trunks he could not wait to get into the pool.

Mum tried to get him to be cautious but he was having none of it.

With nerves of steel he went straight to the deep end and dived in.

His dramatic exit from the pool was the stuff of cartoons.

He shot out of the freezing cold water, blue from head to toe. He looked shell-shocked and had to sit out for a quite a while.

Our biggest problem was keeping straight faces.

The English Obsession with the weather

All of this leaves me baffled as to why I and other English people are still so obsessed with the weather.

We should know by now that it will never play ball.

Plan an outside summer event and nine times out of ten it will rain, snow, blow a gale or be freezing cold.

But there were and are some episodes of unusual good weather also

Even as a child I remember hot dry weather which was boiling hot.

I remember tar melting on a road and women's high heeled shoes getting stuck as they attempted to cross the road.

It is strange then that all we seem to do is still talk about the weather

Get on a bus and your fellow passenger will remark that it is

  • too cold
  • too hot
  • too wet
  • too dry
  • too windy

You get the picture?

The conversation may develop into weather forecasts such as “I hear we are going to have a good, bad, wet, dry, cold or hot summer“ and it may still be the middle of winter.

These days forecasters can predict our weather fairly accurately but they still get it wrong at times.

English weather forecaster Michael Fish, after a long career, remains famous for getting the weather wrong.

That was 1989 and my husband and I were taking a coach holiday around Austria and Switzerland.

As our coach approached Dover in England for the Channel crossing we heard the news and weather forecaster Michael was reassuring a caller that England was not about to be hit by the tail end of a hurricane.

He was wrong and many people felt the wrath of the weather.

Our ferry crossing to Calais was a bumpy ride to say the least.

Poor Michael felt the wrath of the general public and never lived it down.

Deep down I know it is the English weather's unpredictability that has resulted in our obsession with it.

When you come to think about it though it is a waste of conversation, time and effort.

Still the weather as a conversational subject will have helped bridge many differences, started many conversations between strangers and has kept us guessing for years.

When I was young I was taught that the bonus of our unpredictable weather and temperate climate was that at least we did not have extremes such as earthquakes, hurricanes and the like.

I am not so sure that is true anymore.

But having experienced a slight earthquake a couple of years ago has broadened my obsession with English weather.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2010 Ethel Smith


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