I am beginning to get some insight into English talk about weather, and what weather reports mean.   As someone who grew up in an exceptionally balmy area, Orange County, I acknowledge that I have a skewed view of climate, and a personal thermostat which will never recover from those early years in southern California.  It isn’t that it was never cold.  At night in winter temperatures sometimes dropped into the 40’s or lower. When it did, orange groves had to be protected from frost by smudge pots or wind machines.  Smudge pots were the big guns in the struggle to save the citrus crops from deadly frost, fired up following dire weather warnings on the radio. It was exciting, to me as a 9 year-old,  a danger, but not one  that would actually threaten your life.  The next morning,   I would surreptitiously  pick my nose to find the fascinating black deposited therein by the burning pots.  But this cold weather didn’t last very long. 

Granted, you nearly always needed a cardigan or sweatshirt at night, even in  summer.  It wasn’t the tropics, or even Florida.  But it wasn’t humid, either.  My mid-western parents thought it was paradise.  No snow in winter.  No stifling humidity in summer.  We took visiting relatives to the beach at Christmas or Thanksgiving, showing off the wisdom of our move to the land of milk and honey.  Every September ,I studied teen fashion magazines and saw classic pleated wool skirts,  angora sweaters, woolen knee socks and smart top coats,  If I had  wor a wool skirt and angora sweater to school I would have suffocated.  Fashion editors didn’t seem to appreciate that there was an entire teen-age market on the West Coast whose back-to-school needs were not the same as girls in the North East .  The editors were prime examples of those maps which show New York as the entire US.

So, you get the picture.  Shorts and a tee shirt were the uniform most of the time, cotton skirts and blouses, and light sweaters in winter.  Although I longed for a snowy white Christmas, I had no real idea of lasting cold, of gradations of cold, of rain, rain, rain.   In other words, winter, in many places.   

Imagine my surprise the first time a heard an Englishman say, "Fine day, isn’t it? ", as I shivered in my topcoat, neck scarf, woolly hat, and gloves.  After many months of experience, I now have a better understanding of weather terms in the UK. 

  • Fine Day:  The sun is shining.  No reference here to temperature at all.
  • Mild:  temperatures above 5 C and below 10.  If there is wind or storm conditions, forecasters will say it might feel colder.  (It’s cold). 
  • Chilly Start to the Day:  Very cold. 
  • Cold:  Below freezing. Very, very cold.
  • Filthy:  wind and rain.  Usually cold. 
  • Mild but wet:  Temperatures between 5 C and 10 C, rain, rain, more rain.  Cold.
  • A few patches of sunshine:  Run out side as soon as you see a gleam because it won’t last.


I will add to this list as I go along.  I can report that I now can tell degrees of cold myself, that is, between 3 C and 8C, say.  It’s still  all cold to me.  But I know 3 C is colder than 8 C, and minus 0 is colder than 3.  That doesn’t sound like much of an achievement, but for someone like me, who ran inside at the first drop in temperature, it is pretty good.  I know how to layer, and take off as the day gets less cold.  And I can report that when the sun comes out and lights everything up after days of cloud and rain, I appreciate it – and I tell my fellow dog- walkers, "Fine day, isn’t it?"