It’ll have blown itself out by the time you read this, but at this moment I am watching Storm Christoph batter my living room window. The windows don’t fit very well, so I am also experiencing a gentle breeze, and the curtains are moving. Last night I went to bed and even though my bedroom faces away from the sea I could still hear it roaring, like a wild choir, so I put my boots back on and went outside for a walk by the shore.
It’s funny how it is normally impossible to get me out of bed before the afternoon is well advanced but, once I am out, it is hard to get me back in. And also how I have to summon up the last dregs of my willpower to go to the shops if there is even a slight drizzle coming down, but if there’s an actual storm and the shops are shut, then you can’t hold me back. It makes me feel all King Lear-y, or like Krapp in his eponymous Last Tape, reminiscing about his seaside walk in the storm – the walk on which he, like Samuel Beckett himself, realised the source of his true genius.
No such revelation happened to me last night, except, as I was going downstairs, that there was something depressing about living in a house in which there is one of those little green signs and a diagram of a stick figure running through an open door and the words “Fire Exit”. Mate, unless you jump out a window, the fire exit is also the exit.
You expect these signs in theatres and big blocks of flats, but in a 19th-century terraced house? I’m sure it’s all about regulations for houses in multiple occupation, and at least the management are erring on the side of caution, but what it does is remind me of the days when I had a house and no one needed to be told where the fire exit was on the grounds that everyone in it already had a pretty good idea of how to find the stairs.
Anyway, back to the storm. No rain but very blowy, the wind coming up from the sea. This was fine by me as it meant when I turned round for home it could push me up the hill. The hill may be a pain to walk up in calmer weather, but it is also reassuring, in that I know when the Deluge comes (or comes again, if you think the Almighty is going to renege on the promise made to Noah – and let’s face it, he is, literally, capable of anything), I won’t get my feet wet.
When I got back inside, using the fire entrance I suppose, I thought a bit about the name Christoph. Funny name for the Met Office to choose, no? It seems a bit… foreign. European. I’d have thought Brexit would have sorted that kind of nonsense out, but it seems the Met has fallen at the first hurdle.
A little research has taught me that the Met has teamed up with the Irish and Dutch national weather forecasting services, so we are going to have to brace ourselves for a lot more non-British names. As you know, successive storm names begin with the next letter of the alphabet and alternate between genders. I am now going to spoil your fun by giving you the names of some forthcoming storms. If you don’t want to know what these are, look away now.
The next storm will be called Darcy. OK. Do you know anyone called Darcy in real life? Hmm, probably you do, being a member of the rootless metropolitan elite and all that. Then comes Evert. Evert? I think we are beginning to see the problem here: they’ve run out of forenames. Oh wait, F is Fleur. I do know a Fleur but she was mean to my friend N— so that won’t be pleasant. Even worse is Gavin, because the only Gavin I know is a complete bastard. Everything’s fine until we get to Klaas, at which point I imagine a lot of anti-Europeans’ brains are going to explode. Expect some angry letters in the Daily Telegraph. And a few more when we get to Saidhbhín (you can guess what kind of person is going to be upset by Ravi, but they’ll probably keep their mouth shut about it).
The great thing about the naming system is that the Met actually asks the public to submit suggestions, always a tricky business after Boaty McBoatface. Here – and I’m not making this up – are some of the names that have been turned down: Apocalypse, Baldrick, Big Boss, Forkbeard, Gnasher, Megatron and Voldermort (sic). Spoilsports.
Actually, I think we should raise our game when it comes to isolationist storm-naming. I think we should go back to the pre-Norman names. I know I’m not alternating genders here but bear with me. Æthelstan is a good one; Bede, too, and, of course, Cnut is a shoo-in for the next one, because some storms are just like that. I’ll set up the petition now.
This article appears in the 27 Jan 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The Lost