Interpreting the Signs of the Times

For those of my readers who live in other parts of the world, where the weather is not an everyday topic of conversation: I should say that the last few days in England have been warm. Today was a big day for weddings, and I suspect was the kind of day when overweight music-group members are just grateful they are not officiating, and therefore can wear lightweight clothing instead of surplices, cassocks and other appropriate clerical garb. Those married today will have had a roasting and probably quite uncomfortable day, but will in years to come look back on the perfect weather.

In the United Kingdom we have a government body called the Met Office. Originally set up to tell people what the weather was going to be, they diversified. Now the first thing that any weather person does is tell you what the weather currently is – which is, unless you buried 3 miles deep in an air-conditioned office, something you already know – and then they try to make you feel either guilty or terrified about what the weather is going to be.

Now, the Met Office has a whole series of differently coloured alarms which they attribute to different weather conditions. I’d give you the URL, but frankly they combine extreme scare mongering with utter boredom. So let me give you the following summary:


Yellow alert – the sun is going to be yellow. Be prepared to move into the shade if you go an interesting pink colour.

Orange alert – the sun is still going to be yellow but it will be warmer. Get someone to hose you down every thirty seconds. Do not leave the house, as the roads will be crawling with locusts, ants and aphids.

Amber alert – like an orange alert, but people don’t stop.

Red alert – we are all going to die. Forget about work. Nip to Tesco to get plenty of beer in, lay a wet towel on your head, lay down and watch the Test. It’s all your fault for not recycling your bottles and jars.


Yellow alert – the sun is going to be yellow, but something appears to be wrong with it. If the yellow alert is for snow, don’t eat it.

Orange alert – best described as a bit parky. Maybe wear an extra sweater if you’re going to be walking a long way.

Amber alert – really quite chilly. If you are going to the pub, do not have a cold shower before walking six miles home. Unless you’re that Belgian bloke in the beer advert, of course.

Red alert – like a red ski slope. It is very snowy. Do not go outside, as the streets will be crawling with penguins, Yetis and Michael Palin. Do not, under any circumstances, take off all your clothes, open the windows and have a four-hour snow bath. Especially not if you are old or unwell.


Yellow alert – it’s a bit wet. Mind how you go.

Blue alert – the water levels are rising. You wish you’d not switched that extra bar on the fire during last winter’s Amber Cold Alert, don’t you? You should have let yourself freeze, and then you wouldn’t have been in this situation.

Green alert – the water is now over your window sill. Maybe you should get the canoe out?


Yellow alert – the weather person on TV says it’s “quiet”.

Amber Alert – Words like “mizzling” and “spits and spots” may feature in the evening forecast, in a desperate attempt to make it sound interesting

Orange Alert – The weather people start trotting out stats like “it’s the most boring day’s weather in the UK since 1974. And that was only really boring in Northern Ireland.”

Red Alert – The Met Office have failed. Nobody cares about the weather any more. Do not leave your house – the streets will be thronged with redundant weather people.


One thought on “Interpreting the Signs of the Times

  1. Ah, that reminds me of the day I took a wedding when the thermometer was at 35C and people were almost fainting from the heat in our normally freezing church. I didn’t tell the bride, who looked a bit pink in her close-fitting brocade dress, but cassock-albs are great for hiding how very little one is wearing underneath them. 🙂 Mind you, I could have done without the cope!


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