Paul Hudson in the BBC studio during the Weather Show
In the time I’ve worked at the BBC I’ve made programmes about American blues musicians performing in the former Soviet Union, young offenders being rehabilitated through the arts, Royal Navy convoys protecting NATO peace conferences. I’ve interviewed high profile recording artists, read news bulletins and reported live on breaking news stories. And whatever the inherent difficulties of these assignments were, they were at least tangible and there were facts - a story to tell.
So when in March this year my boss said “I’d like you to put together a series of six one hour radio programmes about the weather,” I was dumfounded, nonplussed. The weather? What is there to say about the weather? An hour long show about the weather - six of them!
On hearing the show was to be presented by Paul Hudson, the BBC weather presenter and climate correspondent for BBC Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, my spirits rose … only to plummet again on meeting Paul when his first words were, “six one hour shows about the weather, how are we going to do that?” Not exactly what I wanted to hear.
Luckily, the medical staff the BBC has on permanent stand by, to revive panic-stricken producers, tasked with seemingly impossible tasks, with calming words and reassurance soon brought me back to an operational state. Ok so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but such was the inauspicious beginning of the BBC Paul Hudson Weather Show across Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the North Midlands.
A calmer, more logical, clearer thinking man, might have had the foresight and reason to have said to himself “it’s the weather, everyone talks about the weather, there’s always something to say about the weather.” But this was before I’d met the plethora of intelligent, verbose and enthusiastic contributors we’ve since enjoyed on the programme.
And so six one hour shows followed: we looked at spring, or rather the lack of it, spoke to storm chasers, looked at the impact of weather on mood; we met farmers with their own weather stations, farmers with their own vineyards, we climbed up wind turbines, went inside still working windmills, learnt about weather folklore, met aid workers who’d been in areas of natural disasters, visited the Met Office at an R.A.F. base, met a man who intends to harness the power of Tornadoes and took to the sea to examine coastal weather.
To our surprise we even featured in The Lady, England’s longest running weekly magazine; its reviewer said of the show, “When I found out that BBC local radio in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire had a weekly hour-long show devoted to the weather, I imagined it might be like the Four Yorkshiremen sketch from At Last The 1948 Show, with competitive tykes trying to outdo each other about the extremes of climate they had endured. Mercifully, it’s nothing of the sort. Paul Hudson’s Weather Show is informative and educational, while also being entertaining.”
Perhaps it was this, which, as Paul and I came to the end of the run of six programmes we’d been asked to make, congratulating ourselves on a job well done, prompted my boss to request a further six shows. That was back in early May. After the second run of six shows, more followed and, as I write, I’m working on show number 36 and can see no imminent end in sight.
So why then did we worry when asked to make those first six shows? Something I’ve learnt is that Paul is pleasantly unaware of his own ability – an ability which draws the best from those contributing to the show. So when back in March he asked, “how are we going to do that?” he wasn’t allowing for the show’s secret weapon – himself!
Paul brings a seemingly bottomless depth of knowledge to the show which, coupled with his boundless enthusiasm for the subject and his charismatic down to earth persona, puts those taking part at ease. World authorities in their field, amateur meteorologists and listeners with weather questions, all leave the show knowing their passion for the weather is shared and savoured.
For my part through producing the show I’ve become something of a weather fan. I’d always liked weather in some of its forms; nice sunny days for example and extreme conditions, but knew very little about its complexities. Now, on a good day, when all my faculties are functioning at their best, I can even quote fascinating meteorological facts. If someone reacts to a warm plate saying, “that’s hotter than the sun!” I can smugly explain that the temperature at the sun’s core is 15 million degrees Celsius, whilst its surface is a mere six thousand degrees Celsius. If I wanted to really test the patience of my victim I might add the sun is four and a half billion years old and 109 times bigger than the earth. But that might be pushing it and I’d probably forget the facts half way through the sentence.
I’ve discovered that in the early 1800s there was The Year Without Summer, resulting in major food shortages across Europe and many deaths, a time during which Mary Shelley, holed up on the shores of Lake Geneva with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron was inspired by constant rain and gloomy skies, to write Frankenstein. At the same time the inability to feed livestock led a German inventor, to create a method of horseless transportation - a bicycle without pedals.
I’ve learnt so many pertinent and interesting facts about the climate, the atmosphere, the seasons, the jet stream, storms, lightning, forecasting methods, weather planes, worms and weather, snails and past climates, most of which I may not retain, but something undoubted, the thing I’ve learnt I won’t forget, is that this preoccupation with the weather we in the UK are known for isn't just one based on moaning discontent with a changeable climate - it's prompted and maintained by an unassailable fact - the weather IS interesting!