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Speed Read – the storm before the calm

Every Friday, the Speed Read is mostly just a lot of hot air. Today it’s a lot of cold air rushing at 100 mph towards your greenhouse. 

If you’re of a certain (middle) age, you’ll remember the great storm of 1987. Even if you don’t remember it on account of either being asleep or not being born at the time, you may well have been made aware that it happened via the medium of those endless clips shows that were popular in the earlier years of the millennium. (If you’re too young to remember these clip shows then I don’t think there’s any point in reading on any further). Anyway, whether through memory or via “I love 1987” you’ll know that respected meteorologist, BBC weatherman and national treasure Michael Fish in this year made a prediction that was to define his career.

“Earlier on today apparently a woman rang the BBC and she heard that was a hurricane on the way, well if you’re watching, don’t worry there isn’t . . . . “

And of course even if you don’t know what happened next you know what happened next. The worst storm in decades rocked up (storms weren’t personified in those days so no headlines such as the “Wrath of Kevin” or “Rampaging Michael Buerk” were possible), ripping up trees, toppling busses, cutting power, stripping roofs and killing 18 people. It was horrible. And not just for Michael Fish.

In the past 24 hours, the BBC was not going to make the same mistake. Storm Eunice was all sorts of angry in the Atlantic and was barrelling towards the UK, eyes burning with intent and a sack full of 100-mile-an-hour winds to dump on us in retribution for some unknown crime. (But probably for Nigel Farage). You know what, this personification thing might be ridiculous from a scientific point of view but it is a lot of fun when writing prose.

The Met Office on Thursday chose to issue a Red Warning for large parts of the south of England which it’s only done a handful of times since thinking up the, to be honest, not very imaginative but pretty effective traffic light system for weather happenings.  In other words, it’s going to be bad. Perhaps very bad.

And now I am going switch to the present tense because, unusually for a Speed Read, the events that I am wanging on about are actually happening right this moment. And without wanting to destroy the illusion that this column is written somewhere glamorous like the champagne bar at Harrods or in a private News Pod atop The Shard, I am currently sitting in my house in Weston-Super-Mare and the storm is heading this way. I can see the news outside my window.

So, for the first time EVER, welcome to the FRIDAY SPEED READ LIVE NEWS BLOG:

Number of coffees drunk – 1
Toast slices eaten – 1

It’s windy. I mean I don’t have any scientific or indeed non-scientific instruments to tell you just how windy but it’s pretty windy. I’ve just popped outside to move my bay tree in a pot into the garage and I saw Bob from next door and he confirmed that it was indeed windy.

The BBC is showing images from Porthcawl which isn’t very far from here as the crow flies (although, if I was a crow I wouldn’t be flying anywhere right now) and the seas are flopping over the seawall. Actually, flopping isn’t the right verb, more like tearing.

The clouds I can see from my window are moving across the sky at ferocious speed.

My son has just had a message from his (closed) school that he’s been provided with lots of work to do online. His anger is probably on a par with Eunice’s right now.

Number of coffees drunk – 2
Just had an apple

The sky is now slate-grey and constant.

It’s windier than it was earlier. If Bob was outside he’s agree with me but Bob is sensibly back in his house watching whatever Bob watches.

Apparently it’s spectacular on Weston seafront. I mean it’s always spectacular on Weston seafront but right now the sea is up over the prom and it’s looking pretty dicey. Let me clear that I am not going to go all King Lear and walk down there to shout at the storm.

There’s just been a large crash somewhere near. I think it might be my son throwing the keyboard across his bedroom.

Number of coffees drunk – 3
Thinking about lunch

The rain is now like a sheet of Perspex outside the window. Or a giant shower screen. Or a soggy blanket. It’s raining a lot.

The nice blue fence that we erected in the garden last year is rocking in its concrete boots like an Australian man (or woman) playing a wobble board.

What is it about the weather that inspires so many bad similes?

The police have asked people “not to go to the coast to look at sea”. People are idiots. The news is full of photos of fallen trees, flooded seafronts and enormous waves.

My son is playing Fortnite having claimed that he’s “done” all his schoolwork.

Probably shouldn’t drink any more coffee.

Run out of coffee
Maybe soup?

Eunice is moaning. She’s properly angry. Every now and then there’s a huge bang as a gust hits the back of the house. It’s a bit unnerving,

A friend has just sent a link to a live stream of planes landing at Heathrow. It’s too much drama for me. Seeing these giant metal tubes of people trying to reach the ground while Eunice knocks them around the sky is both compelling and horrific. I can’t watch.

I’m still watching.

No, I can’t do it.

108,000 people watching right now.

“35 tonnes of undercarriage alone”.

Well quite.

Not soup.

The sky is an occasional blue. But just as I think the wind speeds are dropping then the house is rocked by another big hit. Eunice is settling in for the afternoon I think.

Another glance at the BBC and they are reporting the highest gust of wind ever recorded in the UK has been recorded on the Isle of Wight. 122mph. Which is faster than even I can run.

The pictures are spectacular and scary. Roofs ripped from buildings. Water everywhere. Debris. People are talking about a possible “sting jet” which I don’t quite understand but it’s apparently very bad.

My son has more work to do from his school. He claims that the internet is not working in “his bedroom only” – I suspect that this isn’t true.

It’s still very windy. Very very windy.

The roof has come off the 02 in London. Last time that happened, Def Leopard / Taylor Swift / Enya / Jethro Tull / Dua Lipa / REM / Foals / Katy Perry was playing (delete according to joke / band preference)


I need to stop writing this now if I’m going to publish it at the usual time. I hope that you are safe and that your fence, tree, greenhouse, scarecrow is still standing. We should probably acknowledge the impact of climate change on extreme weather phenomena and it’s a sobering thought (I am not drunk) that we’re going to have to somehow get used to them. But for now, let me sign off. It’s been a wild morning.

Oh yes, good luck to GB’s curlers. After two weeks of Winter Olympics coverage I am now curling expert so they should feel free to call me if they want some tactical consultancy.

To play out I make no apology for playing Neil Young. Like a hurricane indeed.

Stay safe.

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