It’s incredibly mild at the moment, causing Boris Johnson in this week’s Daily Telegraph to do a bit of research on global warming.It was the office Christmas party, and for a few brief minutes we broke off from our labours for the annual ping-pong challenge. We took the chairs out from around the big table in my office, and put some books down the middle – and soon we were whacking the ball to and fro with metronomic rhythm and serpentine guile.
After a while, I noticed an embarrassing problem. Perhaps it was the wine. Or maybe it was the exertion required to fend off the challenge from some of these fit, young staffers (and I don’t believe in letting them win, I can tell you). It could have been the choice of shirt – that shade of blue is always a risk. At any rate, I was conscious of a dampness in the torso area – and I stared down with horror. I was awash; I looked like an advertisement for antiperspirant. Do you remember that chap in the Harry & Paul sketches – Brian Farnet from Friern Barnet, who gets into a total lather on Question Time? That’s how I looked – as though someone had soused me with a bucket of warm water. It was stifling in here!
I rushed to the window. I opened one. I opened another – and I closed my eyes and waited for the cooling breeze. Then I opened my eyes, and wafted my hand in amazement in front of the window. Hot damn: the air coming in – from the streets of London in December – was, if anything, actually warmer than the air in my office, which had itself been raised to Reptile House temperatures by the ping-pong. What in blazes was going on?
And then I had a ghastly vision. What if this is it? What if this is the long-awaited inflexion point – the moment that has been prophesied since the Eighties? What if winter is over – for ever?
Aaargh, I thought: and in that moment of horror, I contemplated the loss of something so intrinsic to our psychology. Imagine: no more snow. No more tobogganing on Primrose Hill, no more waking up to see the magic prints of the dog on the lawn.
Imagine if this unseasonably warm spell is just the beginning of a long period of meteorological mediocrity: no more ice on the canal, no lovely crispness in the air, no excuse to walk into a room with a fire and go “brrr” while theatrically rubbing your hands.
Imagine if we have nothing in these long, dark months save a muggy and melancholy mildness, soft, damp and unwholesome; nothing but rain and a louring grey sky pressing down on our hungover eyeballs. The thought made me feel almost unwell.
In my despair, I rang the great physicist and meteorologist Piers Corbyn. You know Piers: he is the older brother of Jezza, and he is famous for believing that the world – on the whole – is getting colder, and that the whole global warming theory is unsound, to say the least. Piers thinks that whatever the role of humanity in affecting the temperature of the planet, that role is pitifully trivial next to the Sun, the supercolossal boiling ball of gas about which we revolve and which enables life on Earth.
In the view of Piers and his colleagues at WeatherAction, it is all about sun spots, and he is on record as believing that we are now due for a new “Maunder Minimum” – like the famous cold spell in the 17th century, when the Thames froze several times.