Interview: Tomasz Schafernaker

The weather presenter discusses the highs and lows of the job – and that “finger incident”

Were you the youngest ever weather presenter?

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I was certainly the youngest bloke. I was 22 when I gave my first forecast in Tunbridge Wells at six in the morning. I can remember it like yesterday: the make-up lady, the director counting me down, my nervousness. I loved it.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

Talking about a subject that I’ve been passionate about since I was a kid. I get a real buzz from explaining something that’s quite complicated and scientific in a way that anybody can understand. It’s almost like being a teacher, I suppose.

And the downsides?

I’ll never forget one particularly chilly morning in the Scottish Highlands. I was reporting from five in the morning until lunchtime and the temperature dropped to minus 20 degrees. I couldn’t feel my toes. Between broadcasts, the crew and I huddled in this little hotel and admired the icicles. It was a winter wonderland – beautiful but absolutely freezing.

You’re famous for more than your accurate forecasts, aren’t you?

Unfortunately! I’ve had my fair share of slip-ups. The most famous is probably the “finger incident” last summer. I was having a laugh with my colleague, Simon McCoy, and swore at him, unaware that I was live on air. Big mistake! It was very embarrassing. You can still see it on YouTube along with a few other bloopers that my, erm, fans have posted.

And then there’s that rather revealing front cover for Attitude magazine…

I have to say, I was lured into it. The original idea was that I’d wear jeans and a shirt with just a couple of buttons undone. But in the photoshoot, the photographer kept coming up with ideas and I thought: why not? Before I knew it I was wearing nothing but a pair of skimpy boxer shorts.

How did your bosses at the BBC and Met Office react?

I think they were a little shocked when they first saw it, but I wasn’t reprimanded as was reported in the papers. That was nonsense. I would never have jeopardised my job or reputation.

So it wasn’t why you handed in your notice?

No, absolutely not. It was entirely my decision to leave. I started in this business at such a young age and I wanted to try my hand at something new, at different kinds of presenting. And after ten years of shifts – night shifts, getting up at quarter to four in the morning, working Christmasses and bank holidays – I wanted a lifestyle change. You sacrifice a lot for a job like this.

Finally, what’s your favourite kind of weather?

Most weather forecasters and meteorologists say big storms, tornados and hurricanes, but I love hot sunshine. It’s ironic because I was born in Poland and experienced a lot of cold winters living there; yet I prefer the exact opposite. On fine days, you’ll find me soaking up the rays like a reptile.

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Tomasz Schafernaker can be seen on The Great British Weather (Wednesdays, 7:30pm, BBC1, BBC1 HD)