Landlines: Farmers help to keep country going over the festive season

Last year was either the warmest on record for the UK or the second warmest, a zillionth or whatever of a degree behind 2006 when the final calculations are made.

Not surprising when almost every month was warmer than average although there were few, and those short-lived, “phew, what a scorcher!” heatwaves. What we did have were spells of exceptionally heavy rain and the effects of the most recent downpours can be seen still lying in fields near you.

The pattern might seem to have continued into 2015 with reports that New Year’s Day was the mildest since 1916. That might have had more relevance if it had not also been horribly wet and windy when the only reason to go outdoors was if work had to be done.

I thought about that in relation to a finding by the National Office of Statistics that only 2.9% of the national workforce kept the country’s show on the road on Christmas Day – care workers, nurses, nursing auxiliaries, chefs and security guards among them. Paramedics, prison officers and communications staff had the highest percentage of members at work. Except, of course, for the 49% of clergy on one of their big days.

Notice anyone missing? That’s right, dairy farmers and their staff if they have any because cows have to be milked twice a day every day. Also anyone with any form of livestock would turn out at least twice to make sure animals were fed, clean and watered. Not a full day, but not a day off either. And the same applied to New Year’s Day. What was odd when I read the report more thoroughly was that the statistics referred to Christmas Day 2012. The pattern probably hasn’t changed much in two years, but it’s just as well that the National Office isn’t issuing weather figures.

It’s the Met Office that does that, although as well as keeping right up to date it reports interesting data from the past. Such as that 100 years ago the UK had its wettest winter – until the one of 2014.

The Met Office also helped report, indirectly, that as an adult Charles Dickens seldom saw snow round and about Christmas. But the six out of ten white and frozen Christmases he saw as a child fixed forever his – and now our – idea of what Christmas weather should be. Year after year of mild, wet Victorian festive seasons as an adult didn’t change his view.

The Met Office notes that many “warmest ever” records have been broken in the past 20 years, few “coldest ever “. The same applies to wettest ever records compared with driest. More to the point David Attenborough weighed in again last week as a believer that something must be done if possible to halt climate change. I guess that trumps Dickens and the Met Office.