This week, BBC made this very poignant announcement that they will not be doing seasonal weather forecasts anymore. So no more barbeque summer and ‘mild winter’ forecasts. I have never followed the seasonal forecasts and so the announcement is not going to affect me much. But it does serves as a reminder to me on how seriously does this country take its weather.

Before I came to the UK, I knew about he British obsession with weather. No one really called it an obsession but if British media, literature and even movies constantly make references to it then it was easy to identify it as an obsession. But nothing prepared me for the real obsession which I experience everyday. First of all, the weather is really something to be obsessed about. It is a drama everyday. At my workplace , I have a television in my line of sight and everytime I look at the weather graphics I see the clouds emerging from south-west of england and as the hours go by the rain makes it way to london, sometimes it goes to the north and misses london and sometimes it stays course and goes over London, or sometimes it peters off by the time it gets to London. I look at it wishing it would go somewhere else and it makes for a thrilling ending.Until the next bunch of clouds appear on the horizon. I am absolutely mesmerised by those weather graphics. Second is the temperature, which moves up and down by a couple of degrees for no explicable reason. Its fun to see the temperature change and I keep wishing it to move higher and higher.Then there is the grand Shipping Forecast.

The British take their weather very seriously. A small portion of my Monday morning at work is spent discussing the weather over the weekend and the outlook for the week ahead. A high proportion of meetings and presentations are started by first talking about the weather. A seasoned local is never caught without an umbrella, or an extra layer of clothing to put on or strip off depending on the weather. The tour of the BBC Television Centre involves doing a weather forecast and also this important piece of information that the weather presenters are actually Met Office meteorologists. Two days of rain which seem absolutely similar to me (grey,cloudy, rainy) are like chalk and cheese to the meteorologists. They call them scattered showers, light showers, passing showers, showers, rain, heavy rain, drizzle etc etc. Even the food in supermarket shelves makes references to the weather, like these sweet clementines were grown in some sunny part of the world or these olives were grown in Mediterranean weather. The idea being that by eating that orange or olive you imbibe the wonderful sunny weather of that country.If only !

The British are also sensitive about the vagaries of their weather. More so when it is summer, the cricket season or Wimbledon. I don’t think I have seen a 5 match test series not have a single rain interruption. Wimbledon centre court got a fantastic roof last year and it was never used. There are also the constant comparisons with Paris which even though has more sunnier days gets more rainfall than London. So when it rains there it absolutely pours, while in London it is that soft drizzle sorry passing shower. They also like to portray their city as this sunny place so all movies, documentaries on London are filmed under wonderful sunlight. It’s a big tourist con !

Yet, the weather doesn’t really stop them from doing anything. They put on their rain jackets and go for their morning run, for working on their little allotments and for partying in the mud filled grounds of Glastonbury while they check for the next sunny day and keep an eye out for the barbeque summer.

Advertisements

The other day I asked myself the question why is it that I have hardly written about my adopted country. Why is it that I don’t write about my impressions of England, about my impressions of London and how is it like to live in those old and very complex country. The first answer that I got back was that I don’t know much about England and I have only been here a few years. But since when has lack of understanding has never stopped me from blogging about something and it won’t stop me now !

I find British politics really interesting. The 3 main parties to me seem to have very similar policies when it comes to governance, economy, welfare, international affairs etc. Yet elections are fought with great passion but to me the differences between the centre, centre left and centre right and not really obvious. In different areas of government the left and right sometime even switch places. But this post is not about British politics. It is about my view of Britian’s role in the international scheme of things. Britian has a lot of inherent strengths. It is probably the only country of its type and size in the worldwhich has a finger in all the different pies around the world. Which given its size means a huge punch above its weight. It has a great relationship with the US across their political spectrum, it is part of the Lisbon treaty (sort of), there is the Commonwealth (and if you think the Commonwealth is dead, then please go to Delhi and see what do the Commonwealth Games mean for a city of 15 million people),  a small finger in ASEAN (via Hong Kong). Its soft power via the BBC, English football, British Council and english language itself goes to far off places. Its unique geographic location puts it in the middle of a closing Japanese and Australian markets and opening American markets.

But all this may soon be changing for 2 primary reasons. One, the new geostrategic relationship between China and the US can be done via the Pacific and completely bypass everything in the middle. US wants to deal directly with Asia and Asia in turn wants to deal directly with Africa. How does UK and London stop itself from becoming another Singapore or a HK? This is not to say that Singapore or HK are not important in the scheme of things, but then there are only economic centres and not seats of power. No G20 gets convened there, no Afghanistan/Iraq/Iran decisions are not taken there and no one thinks of these cities and thinks ‘soft power’.

Secondly, UK is stuck in a neighbourhood which has for all practical purposes retired from business of running the world. The Europe has many claims to greatness but there have all been in the past. It is now mostly running on its past laurels. I dont see anything new and innovative coming out of Europe. I don’t see them trying to engage China. All I see is bickering and more exclusiveness. Europe is increasingly being defined by who is out of it rather than who is in it. I had great hopes from the recent elections of the EU president and that too have been dashed. The new president had this to say about Turkey’s membership some years ago. He sounds more like the head of the church of Europe. This is when Turkey is  increasingly becoming pivotal in world affairs !

Which brings me back to my original point. Where does Britian go from here and what becomes of it. UK is not content being part of the EU because it sees a lot of things differently and in some cases rightly so. It can’t be content hanging onto the coat tails of Obama and hope that some thing will come its way. They need to bring something more than table beyond just sending troops. It can’t just remain open and hope that people from all over the world will continue to invest in this country. It is also not big enough anymore to take independent positions of its own.

For once I don’t have an answer !

The Olympics are over and in what style. This is the best closing ceremony I have seen ever and even London managed to put in a good eight minutes. The party then continued here in London and even the sun came out to party. I now have a hangover and I can’t believe that there are no Olympics on in the telly. There is no synchronised swimming, no taekwondo and no show jumping. There is no Usain Bolt teaching me how to dance to reggae music or Michael Phelps talking about how it was all about a 12000 calorie diet.  There are no spectators on TV screaming China or even my long standing favourite, the Brazilian women beach volleyball team.  There is no tension between the American and the Chinese gymnasts which reminded me of the Cold war days. I am afraid that I will never know how old are those Chinese gymnast babies. They will be no more of Aussies grudging the British team of their spectacular performance. There are no more of these insanely talented sportsmen and women making it look all so easy.

I can’t remember ever following the Olympics so closely. This time was folowing it on the TV, radio, blogs, podcasts, newspaper and ofcourse the betting sites. The betters had Usain down for the new 200m world record even before his first apperance in the competition.  The Olympics was to me a perfect party. There was politics, sporting achievements, gossip, conspiracy theories and the ever hanging threat of something will happen that will spoil China’s party. And to top it all of it could be watched,listened as read without much effort. What else does a man need ? Even India which usually spoils my Olympics managed to win 3 medals and this is the first time ever we have done it. I don’t know whether to be happy or to be sad. I’ll take happy, thank you.

The Olympics turned out to be much better than I had expected. I had thought given the very exciting run up the actual Olympics would be quite boring. The opening and closing ceremonies were brilliant. However, everything was a bit too perfect. I was waiting for one performer to be out of line, or forget his move, or sing out of tune. Not one wrinkle in the entire operation. London’s 8 minute capsule was refreshingly different and my employer got a reference which made me very happy. It focused more on individualism, and therein lies the difference between 2 cultures, thought streams and even value system. We can talk forever about which is superior and better.I don’t see why there has to be one which is better. Can it all not just co-exist ?

Isn’t that what the Olympics are all about ?

Growing up I took some things in my life as granted. I remember telling myself not to take anything granted in life, but that didn’t go too far. Slowly I started to add to this list. I knew they were part of my granted list and I didn’t see it as a problem because some were my passions and I told myself what is a life worth living if I have no time for my passions. As I walked home today on a cold sunny evening I was thinking of these things in my life that I have taken for granted. Its difficult and a bit embarassing for me to come up with the entire list so I shall take out the few top ones.

Among the things that were there in the original list was reading in its entirety except the schoolbook type. So I would love to read anything from a newspaper, to a fiction novel to the back of a cornflake box in desperate times ! I had time for both the current affairs and literature and I wanted both in my life. Another thing that got added onto the list later was writing. When I started to blog I discovered that writing brought me peace. It didnt really matter what I wrote, as long as I wrote it was fine. One more thing that I always took for granted was that I will live in a reasonably hot climate. I am ok living with cold winter for a couple of months, but then I need my sun, I need my heat and I need my sweat.

I now live in London where I lead a much fast paced life than before and the weather continues to be cold for ever and ever. The problem with living in london and leading a fast paced life is three fold – one, ofcourse there is very little time to read and that gets allocated to current affairs to keep abreast with the world. Two, when i read a book I like my mind to quieten down and focus on the book and that doesn’t seem to happen. Everytime I try to quiten down a million other things swim through my head. Three, there is so much to do in London every single day , so my reading just tends to get edged out.

Writing is one thing that I had stopped but now I have restarted and this is the one stop shop for my rants. Again because my mind refuses to quiten I can only write in a certain way. I long to get to my carefree writing..

As for the cold, this time last year the  barbeques were out and this year the snow is out in its full glory. I can’t remember the last time when i felt warm in my bones, when I felt the sweat run down my back, when a glass of cold water felt refreshing.

So apart from the cold, which I can’t do anything about, the main issue still sits in my mind. Where my mind runs at a furiously fast pace and refuses to heel when I say so. It seems to have a life of its own and I am tired of waiting for it to stop. My book pile grows higher and higher.

Quiet. Shh.

This is the end of the year and the papers are full of revewing the year. Reviewing the top events of the year, books, music, movies etc. I shall add to this chorus with my very own review of the year that was in my life. Considering that this is a tale, I am broadening the canvas from mid 2006 to end 2007. So the years that were in life.

As a child I have grown up reading and hearing of how people’s lives have been changed dramatically almost overnight. I have always wondered how does it feel. When I have been down in the dumps I have wanted the same happen to me. But then when things improve I forget about it until the next downturn. The years that were have marked one of these dramatic changes in my life till date. My life as I look back a year ago has almost changed 180 degrees. Its been an absolute roller coster of ups and downs, more ups and less downs. I think I am a man who doesn’t need much to be content with life and so I believed back in 2006 that my life was pretty good. I am not even sure how to describe my life now. Yes I am content with my life now, but I was also content a year back before it all changed for even more better. I am not making sense here !

I now live in London which is probably the only city I have ever wanted to live apart from Delhi. I now work for an organisation that I have admired since I was a teenager. I am not sure if I ever wanted to work in it, but then thats another problem from being content. It is almost a dream waking up to this city and coming to work everyday. I am scared to say that I am content. As I look back at the years that were, I smile. I smile because in these years not only have I learnt my lessons from life, but I have discovered more of myself. Rather I have discovered more of myself that I like. There is a lot of me that I don’t like and if I can help it I don’t want to discover any more of it!

After almost 3 years, I look forward to the new year with hope, cheer and a year full of tales. Happy new year.