Photo: Visit Scotland

A Defence of the Weather as a Legitimate Topic of Conversation

It’s the number one topic to use to fill an awkward silence.

“Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me quite nervous.”
― Oscar Wilde

Weather.  A topic recently ridiculed by Jamie Rodney for being wholly and utterly lacking in imagination and opportunities for polished wit and the beloved “banter” of the modern age. It recalls elderly Victorian gentlemen, smartly dressed in suits, sharply ironed and crisply cut, bearded and moustached, brandishing a monocle alongside a rolled-up copy of the Times and a well-worn black umbrella. As conversations go, it is simple buttered toast in this world of artfully arranged avocado or organic nut butter piece de resistance. It is a wholeheartedly British stereotype that has the unusual characteristic of being relatively true, and you only really need to visit to see why.

It is incredibly fickle here, rather like the country’s general uncertainty about that whole Brexit issue and feelings about Theresa May. A distinct advantage of discussing the weather round your breakfast table at halls or that awkward moment when you are waiting outside a lecture theatre for the previous lecture to finish, is that it steers away from potentially tricky topics such as those previous ones. Weather is infinitely safer than politics. Wasn’t there a conversational code or something of that ilk saying that religion, politics and sex should never be discussed at the dinner table?

You can never fully ascertain, before approaching the point in question, what a person’s views on Brexit may be, or on Jeremy Corbyn. There is always risk for potential discord which could easily be avoided; let’s face it, Brexit will not be resolved by two students hashing it out over their morning sausage and eggs. And all the Americans are most likely tired of hearing about or having their opinion requested on Trump. Alternatively, I have yet to meet someone who has passionately strong views on the subject of weather, those who like rain and those who find it rather abysmally damp are unlikely to engage in expletive filled and typo ridden twitter wars, or take to the streets in protest.

I’m not saying that you should never disagree or contest certain views, but there is a time and a place. Early morning in halls, alcohol fuelled pres or, frankly, most light-hearted social gatherings are not the place. Political conversations can quickly turn into one individual’s tirade which is neither fun nor enlightening.

Photo: The University of St Andrews

And so, back to the glorious topic of the weather. It fills those silences which need to be filled with minimal effort, such as those with distant acquaintances, or tutors when you are the first to appear bleary eyed at a 9am. It saves you from an attempt to discuss the reading you have supposedly done while you wait for the other students to appear, especially the one who is most likely to have done the reading on behalf of you all. Talking about the weather requires so little thought or effort, it is perfect for the sleep-deprived student of today.

St Andrews is also particularly suitable for this. Surely you were all warned that Scotland was going to be freezing and raining all the time when you first told a family-friend or distant relative your university destination of choice. (That and the ‘ooh, you’re going to find a prince’ which I think every girl coming here has heard at some point, accompanied by a middle aged mischievous smirk and a wink). The weather here isn’t actually that bad, often sunny in fact and perfect for beach walks – and so a conversation can be rather half-heartedly assembled.

Additionally, the weather recently has provided ample sources of topic. The snow is a case in point, a relative rarity for all Londoners and any southerners or those from hotter climes, and a rather everyday matter for anyone from North America or Russia. All I heard for days was either puzzlement at the chaos caused, excitement and plans of snow men and sledging down hills on trays, or the dissatisfaction of those for whom the novelty quickly wore off and were alarmed at the plunder of Tesco and closure of the library.

Now Spring has finally sprung and we have enjoyed some gloriously splendid sunny days which resulted in long queues outside Jannettas, students bestrewn on every available patch of sunlit grass, armed with notes and supposedly studying, and everywhere general outcries of weather-induced happiness and optimism. Weather altogether can be quite a unifying topic and despite Gwendolen’s misgivings, it is exactly what it seems and that is the beauty of it.



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