KEITH NEWBERY Symbols help to put us all greatly under the weather

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Sian Lloyd wafted her left hand seductively over the weather map and a swathe of middle Britain, from Anglesey to The Wash, was winsomely caressed.

This familiar gesture somehow softened a chart that looked bleak and ominous.

Snow symbols were sprinkled hither and thither, minus numbers were everywhere and a high pressure – blue, glacial and forbidding – was nudging in off the North Sea. Sian gazed gravely at the camera, smiled sadly in that school-marmish way of hers, and said: “Please remember to wrap up warm.”

The warning came just in time. People about to venture out into the freezing February night in shorts, tee-shirts and flip-flops stopped in their tracks.

They adjusted their knotted hankies, stopped packing the picnic basket and removed their designer sunglasses.

Where would they be without the likes of the kindly, caring Sian and her sensible advice? Hypothermic in a remote ditch, that’s where.

There must be a previously-unsuspected clause in the Met Office contract which calls upon some female presenters to moonlight as nannies or social workers.

This obliges them to translate basic details about temperature, wind direction, precipitation and the proliferation or otherwise of the cumulonimbus (which is all we really need to know) into a counselling session.

They frown at our concern as the mercury falls through the bottom of the thermometer and owners of Vauxhall Corsas suddenly decide six inches of snow present the ideal conditions in which to drive from Kent to Cumbria to visit their elderly mothers.

They smile at our anticipation as the weather map is covered in cheerful solar symbols and we are all urged to ‘slap on the factor 50’ and abandon offices and factories for a day at the cricket or on the beach.

Once there we will no doubt study newspaper headlines, in which the English weather cannot be understood unless it is subjected to a geographical comparison.

‘Hotter than the Costa del Sol!’ is a few degrees more ambrosial than ‘Warmer than Greece!’ but nowhere near as scorching as ‘Sahara so good!’

My favourite so far this winter? ‘Cold as the Himalayas!’ But knowing the yeti and the sherpas are suffering just as much is of scant consolation.