Now it’s French who talk about the weather

CHARLES ROBERTS It's Sunday morning, January 22. The sun is shining and it looks like being a classic winter's day. The TV is on, and I wait for the appearance on screen of a possible three forecasters to the Weather Show, in London and France.


It's Sunday morning, January 22. The sun is shining and it looks like being a classic winter's day. The TV is on, and I wait for the appearance on screen of a possible three forecasters to the Weather Show, in London and France

Not so long ago, the twinned image of weather and the Brits was as common as fish 'n' chips. Now Britain has opposition, French style.

Take France's handling of the recent surge of horrendous weather, which has torn its way through most of Europe. France has confirmed itself as the latest of the weather mania clubs. And they do it with panache.

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I've never counted how many different presenters there are on the French side. But there are quite a lot of them. Moreover, management for sure don't worry about everyday presentation costs. Which is to say, the individual presenters wear different (and undoubtedly expensive) outfits virtually every time they appear. That can't be bad for the ego.

After the mild temperatures, then the violent storms, there was barely time to draw breath.

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On both sides of the Channel there was applause for the brilliant rescue of the container ship Napoli. Despite violently heavy seas, and "dangerous elements" on board, the ship was towed to safety in Lyme Bay by two powerful tugs.

The massive boat is now grounded, with work going on at emergency level on British sands to clear Napoli's cargo. The French, you can be certain, will be breathing intense sighs of relief that what could have been a major disaster for France is now in other hands.

The French press, national and local alike, had their parts to play in the great drama. One of them declared with a dramatic flourish: "The Floating Bomb is heading for the south of England."

However, the weather was not yet finished, though now it was more theoretical than practical. True, it was the talk of the whole country while it was happening. But memories are notoriously fragile. So another newspaper took the logical step of looking ahead a little through the eyes of a clutch of highly respected weather men and women.

First estimate was for Sunday, at 15C. 15C also (Monday) in Bordeaux; and 20C in the southeast. France will wake on Monday, or in the days that follow, under a covering of snow.

A second expert warned that, as from Sunday, we should expect to lose in temperature around 5C each day.

A third expert spoke of a first major change of weather patterns on Saturday, coming in from the east. "Temperatures are going to fall. The wind is going to turn, and a mass of cold air will come from the north of Scandinavia, which will settle over the whole of France."

A fourth expert advised that from today, Tuesday, temperatures will be higher than the usual seasonal normal. Temperatures will be below freezing in the coldest regions. Snow could appear in the form of showers on the Channel coasts.

A fifth expert anticipates "a true plunge into winter". After tomorrow all the indications point to its being very cold. "It's possible that we could go down as much as -10 or -15C.

"But whatever happens, this cold is certainly going to be with us for at least 10 or 15 days, accompanied by snow everywhere."

Cheerful thought!

We've lived now in our house on the edge of the Forest of Gouëx for nearly four years. We've experienced a touch of most that weather conditions can offer. But we can always add a reassuring rider - that whatever has hit us has been mild in comparison with most other parts of France.

As for snowfall during that time, only twice have we had any here. Even then it was only light and decorative. Yet in wintertime it is cause for concern. The house is at the end of

a green lane, about one third of a mile from the nearest metalled road.

The green lane itself is pitted gravel and sand all the way when conditions are notably wet. Add to that the

house entrance lane, about 150 yards long, and it can be appreciated that we would be blocked in for as long as the snow lasted.

But there is reassurance even then. We have the most friendly relations with two farming families, both owners of enormous tractors. And of this too we can be sure, they are more likely to be first to knock at our door offering help, than we are to ask for it.

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