Monday, October 3, 2011

Last of the Summer Whine

I hope you’ve all remembered to fit your winter tyres. Having been cruelly teased with a glimpse of summer, there’s a rumour going about in weather circles that we’ll be under a foot of snow by the end of next week.

Nothing about our climate would surprise me. If the forecasters are right, then, it’s likely my winter tyres will be booked for their fitting precisely one day after the snows arrive, thereby consigning my car, like last year, to a three-month icy tomb.

I’ve always had a deep distrust of weather reports, stemming from my first job as a reporter on BBC local radio.

Every Friday all the journalists in the newsroom would descend on the local pub and spend the entire afternoon drunkenly playing away their wages on poker. As the most junior person, I was not only the designated driver, but also the mug that had to go back and read the 3 o’clock news and weather.

Quite often the official weather telex wouldn’t show up, so I’d just look out the window and make it up.

“It’ll be quite cloudy in about 20 minutes”, I’d say confidently, and it always was. The listeners must have marveled at the accuracy. If there were any viewers: the station was a bit short on feedback, which is presumably why nobody rang up to complain when I accidentally switched the station over to Radio 4 for a whole hour.

My wife, who’s from Los Angeles, where the average October temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the threat of forest fires lasts till November, agreed to relocate to Northumberland only because I took her to the Roman Wall during our previous warm spell in August 2006. Do you remember that week? There was a fire warning in Kielder Forest. We had ice cream and I wore shorts.

Ever since I’ve been pretending it’s just a bit of a cold snap. I fear that, after five years, this argument is wearing thin. It was so sweet to see Jo’s glowing face on Thursday as the sun warmed up our Californian sun loungers: since we brought them over they’ve been shivering unoccupied on the terrace.

However I know last week’s warmth spells only trouble. As the cold mist descended on our valley yesterday and the barbecue cover was put back on, the subject of furry boots and winter coats was top of Jo’s agenda.

Still, even though it’s just a meteorological blip, it was still nice to see brightness in the middle of the gloom. I only wish our business community could experience something similar. For them it’s been a perpetual perfect storm of uncontrollable turmoil.

So I was surprised to see, at the regional CBI’s annual dinner in Newcastle the other night, a room crammed with jolly, optimistic faces. There was, if not exactly confidence, certainly enough exuberance in the air and a gritty determination to see this recession through.

That’s what I love about the North East. When the rest of the country writes us off, and they always do (don’t you love the raised eyebrows in London when you say you’re from Newcastle?), when they scrap our development agency without consultation and replace it with a system no one wants and a fraction of the money we had before, run from London of course, when the state-run railway puts up the cost of an ordinary second class London return to £287, we just plough on. We know we’re part of a team that everyone thinks is destined for relegation, but we’re here for the long term.

Like our footballers (sorry, Sunderland supporters, this bit is not for you), we may not have too many star strikers, but when we pull together, and support each other, we simply can’t be beaten. Who needs Carroll, anyway? We wouldn’t have a Tevez if he was sent to us on a free transfer wrapped in Argentinian fillet steak. We know we’re on our own up here, just waiting for the growth to happen.

Come on, you coalition chaps talking hot air in your warm Manchester conference, send us some quickly, before we all freeze to death.

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