The naming of storms is a difficult matter, as TS Eliot might have said, if he hadn’t been so distracted by cats. Only last year, scientists discovered that Americans failed to take storms seriously when the weather system was given a female name. The most lethal female-named hurricanes have notched up almost twice the death toll of their male-named counterparts because, one presumes, too many Americans have assumed that lady-storms are just making a fuss about nothing and can safely be ignored until they go off in a huff.
Not to be left off the weather-naming bandwagon, the Met Office and Met Eireann have decided that Britain and Ireland should have named storms too. No longer will we have to shake futile fists at an anonymous sky. Now, when we have left the house without an umbrella and found ourselves soaked to the skin, we will know who to blame, whether it is Abigail, Barney or Clodagh. Sadly, the naming conventions preclude the use of the letter Z, or we could, like the Greeks did a couple of millennia before us, decide that it is Zeus who is responsible for the thunderbolts.
If your first thought is why we would need to start naming weather systems now, when we’ve managed perfectly well describing it as ‘that bloody rain’ for centuries, we are of one mind. But the Met Office has an answer: ‘The naming of storms using a single authoritative system should aid the communication of approaching severe weather through media partners and other government agencies.’ Suddenly, the lack of warning for 1987 hurricane makes sense. Poor Michael Fish was probably calling it ‘Barry,’ while Wincey Willis no doubt referred to all storms as ‘Elaine’ (after a bracing encounter with Elaine Paige in the TV-am green room).
I already think most weather forecasters are children’s TV presenters who refused to work with glove-puppets. And encouraging them to give names to aspects of the weather can only add to that. So I think I’ll give up watching the forecasts and check my phone to see what the weather will be like. And if I get drenched, I promise not to complain about Desmond.
It’s not often that a government policy has its desired effect, swiftly and measurably. But that is the case with plastic bag usage: Scotland began charging for them a year ago and since then, there has been an 80% reduction in plastic bag use. 650 million fewer plastic bags meandering along the street, clogging up the drains, and ending up in the oceans can only be a good thing. But since Wales started the whole process in 2011, it seems odd that it took England so long to catch up.
Were we too busy carrying our shopping home to change our habits sooner? Or was there a pro-plastic bag lobby whose machinations were invisible to me? I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t prefer fabric bags: they’re much easier to carry, because you can put them over your shoulder. Admittedly, they’re not as effective at choking a seagull, but I thought we’d all decided that was morally wrong?
Young people must get tired of being told how workshy they are. Not least because, according to a new survey, they do more overtime than anyone else. Workers aged 16-24 work longer hours than other age groups; 11% of them do more than 20 hours of overtime a week. The city with the longest average overtime (8 h 43m per week) was Brighton, proving that not everyone in a party town can spend all their time partying.
Perhaps this is, at least in part, because younger workers are so rarely ‘off’: they tend to remain connected – via phone or tablet – to the world of work, so the distinction between the their personal and work lives is eroded. No wonder a third of them have also said they’re hoping to achieve a better work-life balance.