Spare a thought for Bill Giles and the TV weathermen

Ben Dowell explores the former BBC stalwart's contention that weathermen and women get too much stick - and agrees they are an underappreciated TV treasure

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Spare a thought for Bill Giles and the TV weathermen
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Ben Dowell

Bill Giles, the retired BBC weatherman, wants to get something off his chest.

Writing in this week’s Radio Times, he says: “Some people would have us believe we are in for the most severe winter for 100 years... That forecast was probably provided by someone sitting in their bedroom guessing, and no doubt if it comes off they will shout from the rooftops – but if it doesn’t the Met Office will get the blame!

"Such is the lot of the weatherman. At this stage all I would say is don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers, but do believe everything you read in Radio Times.”

Ah, a wise man indeed.

And he may have a point about he and his fellow presenters too. Poor Michael Fish has never got over failing to predict the hurricane in 1987 and once said that if he were given a penny for every time it was mentioned he would be a millionaire by now (it was even referenced in the Olympics opening ceremony).

Giles for his part seems to have fraternal sympathy for his fellow forecaster, referring to “the now exceptionally boring clip of Michael Fish assuring everyone that there was no hurricane on the way.”

And I think he has a point.

The British are obsessed with the weather, which is usually pretty cruddy, and forecasters seem to me to be a convenient scapegoat.

After all, who is easier to blame for three solid days of drizzle than the person who tells you about it in that cheerful voice?

No, it’s definitely time to stand up for the weathermen and women, to appreciate them for the hard job they do and the joy they bring to our lives.

I am thinking in particular of people like Tomasz Schafernaker, the legend who was caught flicking a newsreader the middle finger and whose consternation when he realised he was on air was a joy to behold (see clip below).

I am thinking of Ulrika Jonsson, who in 1990 cracked up during a now-famous TV-am broadcast and never did manage to share the forecast.

I am thinking of the likes of former BBC weatherman Dan Corbett whose brilliance was memorably expounded upon by my colleague Jack Seale.

“Dan's old-school,” wrote Jack. “He romanticises meteorological phenomena and even days of the week into sentient, capricious forces who delight in ruining our mundane, middle-class lives. Weather fronts are personified as 'he' rather than 'it', and described as 'troublemakers' who are 'lurking' over the Atlantic, the North Sea or 'the near Continent', as Dan likes to call France.”

Sadly, Corbett is no more BBC Weather-wise and has emigrated to a country with a better climate – since 2011 he has been happily plying his trade for the New Zealand Met Office.

So in order to ensure we hang on to his like we should treasure them more. And we may even be able to stomach some of what they tell us.

Such as Bill Giles's prediction in the RT that there won’t (sob) be a White Christmas this year….

I for one forgive you, Bill.


 


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