Like many people, I have a little weather app on my phone with which I check the forecast. But, useful as that is, I often find myself checking the weather right now. Sure, I can easily look out of the window and see what it’s doing but I like to know exactly what temperature it is and then I can see if it’s ‘really cold’ or if it’s just me thinking it’s cold. What difference does that make? you may ask. If I’m cold, I’m cold, right? Well, I like to check my perceptions against what we are pleased to call reality. Hence if I’m finding a crossword difficult I look at the comments and see if it’s just me: sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. Call me a kook if you will, but I like to know if I ‘have a right’ to shiver; whether my feeling of coldness is justified. Is it really as cold as I feel? is the question on my mind; and I suspect I’m not the only one. Of such stuff are daily conversations made. Mind you, nothing can surpass this one, overheard at a Yorkshire bus-stop:
Passenger 1: They said it’s going to rain.
Passenger 2: Ay, they did
Passenger 1: It’s raining a bit now.
Passenger 2: Ay, it is
Passenger 1: ‘Course, this en’t the proper rain. This is just condensation.
It’s much funnier if you read it in a Yorkshire accent. And in case you’re not from these parts and don’t know what a Yorkshire accent is like, here’s a taste:
But back to the weather app, because the thing that really disturbs me about it is this: you can’t scroll back. I expect you can on the computer (I’ll check in a minute) but you can’t on the phone – so if, for example, I want to see whether it was as cold as I thought it was last night, or how deep the frost was at about half-past four – I can’t. It won’t go back, only forward. And there’s something in that which deeply disturbs me. It’s as if the weather app is like something in 1984, not merely editing the past but positively erasing it. ‘The weather last night?’ it seems to say. ‘There was no last night. You merely imagined it. There is only now – and the forecast for the next few weeks. That’s all there is.’
My weather app erases the past!
I’ve just checked and you can’t scroll back on the computer either!
While we’re on the theme of temperature I’ve been reading Fahrenheit 451 and being very impressed by Ray Bradbury’s ability to forecast the future. He’s like a sort of literary Charlie Brooker in that he takes current trends and propels them into the future. I’ll never forget a short story of his in which everyone had a hand-held communications device and used it to call people at home so they could say, ‘I’m on the bus! I’ll be home in five minutes. We’re just coming round the corner…’
Now that’s a forecast.