So, this weather, eh – what do you make of it? Bad isn’t it?
Right, that’s the small talk out the way, what d’you think? If I’m talking to a stranger – not that you’re a stranger you understand; we have got to know each other over these last few weeks, for example; you’re into…swimming and you like the colour…green…and…OK, so I haven’t been paying attention. Nevertheless, when I’m talking to a stranger I always find it easier to start a conversation, if it’s about the weather; it’s one of those topics that’s always relevant. It’s a good way of starting off. It’s not like you can walk over to someone you’re never met before and shout; “Tell me about your life” – people will think you’re some sort of demented Michael Aspel who’s forgotten to do his research.
I don’t know what it is about the weather that makes it such a conversational lubricant but it really does work. I think it’s because it’s one of those things that affects us all, unless you’re trapped underground. Or a spaceman. In fact, now I think about it, I bet one of the few people you could strike up a conversation about the weather with, is Neil Armstrong – I bet he’d be rubbish. You’d say something like; “It’s a bit humid today, Neil” and he’d respond with “I wouldn’t know, I’m used to being on the moon”, so you’d say; “Yes, but surely you can comprehend that today is both warm and damp?” to which he’d retort; “Not really, I’m too used to the atmosphere in space, which is unaffected by climate change.” Then there’d be an awkward silence. Eventually he’d pipe up again; “When I was on the moon…” “Oh, shut up about the chuffin’ moon, Neil! I’ve been to Cleethorpes but I don’t bang on about it – give it a rest.” That’s one of the main reasons I stopped inviting him to the local pub quiz. That and he kept getting the Science Fiction questions wrong.
Bitter, ex-astronauts aside, most people have been affected by the weather – take me, for example (no you don’t have a choice); during the recent bout of torrential precipitation, one of the windows in my flat had taken it upon itself, to let the rain in; as though it were a Good Samaritan giving a wandering homeless man shelter for the night. That would be fine if the homeless man wasn’t urinating on my windowsill and getting it on the wooden flooring. For anyone confused, there isn’t a homeless man wee-ing on my window ledge, it was just a metaphor for a leak. The rain has been leaking in through one of the windows and getting everywhere. We’ve called the builder to come and look at it and that’s where you find me now – waiting in for the builder to arrive.
I hate waiting for builders; it’s such a tense time. It’s like waiting for a first date, but fractionally more nerve-wracking because you’ve skipped the meal and gone straight back to your place for desert, or in this case – some plastering. There always seems to be etiquette to the interaction that I’m never quite prepared for – do you show them round? Do you offer to help? What do you do about tea – do you offer to make them a cup or let them help themselves? What if they’re into coffee – do you go out and buy some especially? What about herbal tea? Before he’s even had chance to turn up late, I’m pacing my flat, avoiding the puddle of water, with my cupboard stocked high, full of everything from Ginseng to Lapsang Souchong.
It truly is a terrifying time for me; it’s like Human Interaction #101 and I fail every time. By the end I’m some jabbering idiot asking if he wants milk and two sugars. At least I’ve got a strong opening though: “So, this weather, eh – what do you make of it?”