Flindt on Friday: Forecast turns out not so fine again

I have a cunning plan to save the BBC a whole bunch of money (after all, Mr Lineker isn’t going to pay himself those millions to talk about football, and Ms Maitlis charges a small fortune to read words off a screen): scrap the weather forecast.

Show a nice picture, play some Mantovani – Charmaine, perhaps – and put up a three-word caption: “fine next week”. After all, it couldn’t be any less accurate than the present “forecasts”.

See also: Read more from Charlie Flindt

Yes, I know that there’s only one thing farmers moan about more than the weather, and that’s the weather forecasters. But the last year or so has seen our meteorological services experience a monumental surge in ineptitude, reaching stunning new heights in chocolate fireguard uselessness.

How can this be? They demand – and get – more money, bigger computers, fancier technology, and, in the case of the Met Office, new headquarters in Exeter – although rumour has it that it was only so they could open the window and predict the weather a few hours before the rest of us.

Haven’t the foggiest

I’m not the only farmer who watches numerous forecasts every day, and makes plans based on them. I was writing this at the end of last week (if that makes sense) which was predicted to be a dead cert dry week.

So I made plans for some serious catching up in the drilling stakes, mapped out a field-by-field progress chart, even had a mental image of that last bag of seed going in.

But in the end, I haven’t turned a wheel since Sunday. I know I’m not the only farmer tearing his much-reduced hair out, because I nightly compare notes on dismal forecasts with dozens of other frustrated drillmen on Facebook, and sometimes, it’s the only therapy possible.

It’s bad enough that the Weather Muppets can merrily flip their predictions without so much as a by-your-leave, or even a hint of an acknowledgement, but there’s also been a nasty outbreak of talking nonsense.

Louise Lear, for instance, gesturing at a picture of round straw bales in flooded stubble, and assuring her viewers that it was a “ploughed field”. 

Above-average temperatures are now always referred to as being “higher than where they should be at this time of year”. No – that’s not what an “average” is. And it’s odd that lower-than-average temperature rarely get the same “should be” treatment.

There’s new drama, too; every gust of wind bigger than a gnat’s fart has to have a dramatic name: “Hurricane Destructor” or “Storm Barbarian the Village Flattener”. And note that sensible average wind speed arrows have been replaced with “highest gusts”. All the better to scare you with, my dear.

Chasing rainbows

There’s no doubt that it looks very professional: the graphics are clever and sophisticated, Ms Lear’s frocks are a feast for the eyes.

But for some of us, admittedly a diminishing few, it’s supposed to be a vital work tool, not just an extension of the BBC’s light entertainment department, or a stepping stone to lucrative appearances on comedy celebrity panel games and full-page spreads in Hello magazine – or “doing an Ulrika”, as you might call it.

Despite all that ranting, I’ve just watched the local news, and felt the adrenaline rush as the vital forecast drew closer. It’s a hard habit to break after 35 years.

And you won’t believe what the Weather Muppet has just said for next week – the week that ends on the day Farmers Weekly publishes this column: yup, it’s going to be “mostly fine”.

Where’s my copy of Mantovani’s Greatest Hits?