Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Global Warming/Cooling/Warming Oh I don't know any more!
A documentary film on BBC2 the other day began with the story of how a scientist had been examining ice cores, drilled from the Arctic.
The findings revealed massive and sudden changes in the region's temperatures over thousands of years.
The data showed that there had always been fluctuations in the earth's temperatures and this was more or less predicted by theory.
Analysed over a long period, this was shwon as sort of wave shape, with gentle rises followed by gentle declines.
However, on occasion, the temperature had suddenly plummeted and then climbed quickly back up to normal. The theory didn't explain this, so the scientist set out to discover what had actually happened.
Eventually, the programme and the scientist came to the "Atlantic Conveyor" theory. This has nothing to do with a ship of that name but rather refers to the Gulf Stream.
Warm water from the Central/South America region of the Atlantic flows north, via the Gulf of Mexico and along the eastern coastline of the US, across the Atlantic toward the UK where it backs to a more northerly course as it passes the UK & Ireland on its way to the Arctic.
Upon reaching the Arctic region, the water is cooled (presumably all those ice cubes floating around there have something to do with that). As the water cools, it becomes more dense (as salt water will do), and sinks. As it sinks and nears the ocean floor, currents down there take the water pretty much back the way it came but at a much greater depth, until it reaches warmer waters off the Caribbean/South American area.
Warming up decreases the density so the water rises toward the surface where it is warmed even further and off it goes once more in its Gulf Stream guise.
So, the scientist figured, it seems that, for some reason, this "conveyor" must have stopped at some point in its history.
As the Gulf Stream delivers warmth the equivalent of a million power stations to the UK, the sudden loss of this would be catastrophic. The UK would enter a big freeze and the climate would be more like that of Labrador (now, that would make the Jocks put some prpoer trousers on, wouldn't it?).
Then for some reason, the current started to flow once again and we all warmed up a bit.
Now came the panic mongers' bit.
If the Gulf Stream's salt content was to decrease at the point where it gets cold and dives down to the ocean bottom, the change in desity would be much reduced so the sinking of the water wouldn't happen.
The Gulf Stream would stop.
And we get back to the sudden and dramatic decrease in our temperatures in the UK.
Now, remember that bit. The next ice age cometh if the Gulf Stream takes a rest.
Fine, thinks I, that explains everything then. It seems like the old wags were right; "what goes around, comes around".
Cut now to the panic mongers busy gathering data in Greenland, Siberia and the Arctic Ocean.
These scientists are showing in detail how certain glaciers in Greenland are moving at a much faster rate than ever recorded before; how much the rivers flowing from Siberia into the Arctic have increased dramatically in volume and how much the salinity of the water at the Gulf Stream's turning point has decreased radically.
OK, got that, what's next?
Well, they pointed out how how global rainfall patterns would change. There was some good news in this bit as it showed the equatorial rainfall moving north. Sadly, they say this will mean the equatorial rain forests would disappear to be replaced by grassland and bush. Sad for equatorial tree collectors, I suppose but what about the poor sods in Sub-Saharan Africa? Currently, they suffer from repeated long droughts which cause massive crop failures and terrible famines in the region. Well, now it seems they may be in for some heavy rain for some years to come. Bonus!
They will then be able to grow crops and feed themselves. They will be able to thrive and prosper. They will cease to be recipients of billions of pounds worth of aid every year so that money can be invested elsewhere in the world economy. We are all going to be winners! Hurray!
Back to the Greenland glaciers et al for a minute.
Why are they seeing these changes? Easy; global warming is causing the ice to melt thus releasing more fresh water into the Arctic Ocean.
This causes temperate climates such as the UK to become big ice boxes (remember that bit earlier?).
When we get cold, we light more fires to get warm again, thus adding to global warming and speeding the cycle up.
Now it all gets a bit tricky.
Global warming causes the ice to melt and for the resulting fresh water increase causes the Gulf Stream to give up the ghost. When clouds form, they will retain their water content until such time as they become too dense to be able to carry all the water. This increase in density causes all that water to fall as rain. Generally speaking, what causes this increase in cloud density is a drop in temperature so most rain falls as clouds move northwards and cool(I am talking only about the northern hemisphere here; the reverse applies down under).
As the scientists predict that northern Europe and the Arctic will have become much colder as a result of severe Gulf Stream failure, what happens to all this rain?
It falls as snow and is frozen when it lands on the sub-zero ground below. It all piles up in massive ice sheets, glaciers and ice bergs etc.
So what's your point, Kelvin?
Simple; all that fresh water comes from the ocean. Take out fresh water from the ocean and you cause the salinity to gradually rise.
Keep that fresh water locked up on the ground in glaciers etc and it doesn't get back into the ocean to balance the change in salinity.
The water becomes more dense and, somewhere around the Arctic, it will begin to sink. As it sinks, it will draw more water from the south and bingo!
The Atlantic Conveyor is once more up and running, we all warm up again and so it goes.
I realise the yoghurt knitters and tree huggers will probably scream out in anguish but they may have to one day face the fact that this is the way it goes.
The earth's climate has been doing this on its own for millenia, since before MR and MRs Ug lit their first fire.
So why do the panic mongers think they can change the earth's climate when it is obvious the earth has had its own way of doing this since the creation of the planet?
Anyway, I thought this was God's job, not Ian McKaskill's!
Loss of Liberty.
A generation before mine saw the rise of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen.
Some of the policies they introduced to Germany were never questioned at the time as they were seen by people both inside and outside of Germany as generally sensible and good for the country.
Most of these measures related to registering people according to their race, religion or long term illness or disability.
No problems; "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear". We have heard this and the arguments surrounding it many times recently.
After the end of World War 2 when it became apparent what the German authorities wanted with all that information on their registers, civilised people expressed their horror and said "never again".
Well, good folk, the term "never again" in terms of the United Kingdom at least, actually seems to mean something like "that was a good idea really. Why don't we do it too?"
We have had the controversy over the proposed ID card nonsense for some time now and I suspect that argument will rumble on and on and I will predict a fair amount of civil disobedience when the government tries to force us into registration etc.
However, we shouldn't allow that one issue to take all our attention.
The last few years have seen a lot of other attacks on our liberty.
Taken separately and singly, they seem to be rather innocuous and a lot of people have fallen into the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear trap".
Registration of your personal details for the ID card system: "Nothing to fear, nothing to hide".
CCTV cameras all over the place, watching your every movement: Again "nothing to fear.." etc.
Then came the draconian measures such as keeping people suspected of acts related to terrorism to be either kept in prison without any charges being brought or being kept under virtual open arrest at their homes.
Now the government is proposing to bring in similar measures to curtail the liberty of anyone they say is suspected of being involved in serious crime.
Although I would agree that the threat of terrorism is, on the face of it, the more serious issue when compared to serious crime, it is the latter proposal that worries me the most.
Under this proposal, the government wants to be able to rummage through a suspect's bank accounts, ban them from associating with certain people, restrict their ownership and use of a mobile phone etc. They will even be able to ban a person from using the internet and to restrict a person from accessing his own bank account.
Herr Hitler would have been proud of this government!
It seems to me that we are being deprived of any shred of liberty that we may once have enjoyed in this country.
If people are suspected of terrorism or of serious crime, then the evidence should be gathered and placed before a court for a court to decide whether or not an offence has been committed. The appropriate punishment would then be meted out to the offender.
I believe this government are running "knee jerk" policies which are probably dictated by the shrieking headlines in our daily rags. They can't be bothered, or are not clever enough to focus their efforts on the detection and prosecution of crime as we, as a civilised society, are used to.
What is difficult about that?
Now the government has seen their control orders, as applied to alleged terrorist suspects, fall into disrepute, they are proposing to use similar powers against organised crime suspects but this time via civil powers.
In other words, they will skip the normal criminal court procedures and their rigid application of rules of evidence etc.
What will happen under the new proposals will be that the authorities can go to a magistrate and have a discussion something like:
"This bloke is a real bad bugger. He has a flash car and some really dodgy mates and we think he is probably involved in organised crime. We would like you to issue one of these control orders on him"
"Oh really" says the magistrate, "Well prosecute him then"
"Ah, well the evidence is a bit thin at the moment"
"Well, what evidence do you have then?"
"Well, not a lot actually but honestly, this bloke is a bad 'un, believe me"
"Oh OK then, order granted".
"Thanks Mr Beak. That'll piss on his bonfire!"
I think the Americans refer to "due process". Well, whatever one calls it, we no longer have it.
We have a police force that regularly walks around with weapons. Not satisfied with issuing pistols such as other police forces around the world use, our police forces walk around with machine guns.
If the police were to be armed with side arms, then people would be able to say we now have an armed police force, just like all those foreigners. Just give a lot of them a machine gun and then the government can say "Oh no, these are exceptional circumstances".
Now the government want to short circuit some of the work that should properly be done by the police.
They are more or less saying to the police "Look, don't bother too much about this tedious evidence gathering business, just apply for a control order. Then we can reduce your budgets as you won't need the same levels of manpower".
Once they have a series of control orders in place to cover terrorism and serious crime, there will no doubt be a chorus from government ministers of how successful these are so let's extend the deplorable practice to other issues.
Drivers suspected of bad parking can be made to scrub the cathedral steps perhaps.
Or how about an order to force people who snore loudly to surrender their passport and weekly shopping lists until they have had their noses amputated?
Parents of kids who are badly behaved can be subject to an order to humiliate them. (Oh, I forgot; we have that arrangement already!)
Returning briefly to the issue of CCTV; this country is covered by the largest concentration of CCTV cameras of any country in the world. It has been calculated that the average citizen in this country can expect to be filmed something like 300 times per day, just while going about your lawful business.
If you are in your home for say 30% of the day, you will be filmed or photographed once every 3.2 minutes. Or put another way, you will be snapped once every 200 seconds!
All well and good, I suppose, providing all this leads to a dramatic reduction in crime.
There is absolutely no evidence at all to support any claims of any sort of reduction in crime.
In fact, despite official government lying (or manipulation of data, if you prefer) about crime rates etc., the evidence shows that violent crime is on the increase. Presumably, CCTV cameras along your high street would be put there to deter or detect theft and violent crime. They are not there to catch you fiddling your taxes!
So, as the number of CCTV cameras increases, so does violent crime.
The inevitable conclusion is that CCTV cameras are as much use as a chocolate tea pot when it comes to deterring crime.
There must be a good reason then for the authorities to persist in spending so much money on these intrusions.
Well, don't let's look at these things in isolation. Try looking at them in concert with the other gimmicks, tricks and wheezes.
Add the CCTV cameras to the automatic number plate recognition systems, cameras along our motorways, bogus control orders that enable the authorities to snoop into your bank accounts, a proposal to allow all the many government agencies to share your personal details willy nilly, the collection and retention of your fingerprints and DNA data, regardless of whether you are a criminal or not and of course the grand ID card scheme and the answer becomes a bit more clear.
It is quite simply so the government can keep tabs on every single aspect, no matter how trivial, of your life.
Then what?
That is what worries me.
Where do we go from here?
Why, back to 1930s Germany of course!
PS Did you know that, if you fly to the USA, the government of the USA gets access to over 50 pieces of data about you?
If they don't get the data they want, including your meal preferences, you don't get in!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Mangling of the English Language.
I am sure many of you will have noticed how people in the public limelight are apparently on a mission to mangle, modify or even destroy the English language. I for one am very conscious of the fact the English is possibly unique in the way it is constantly developing and adapting. One thing that probably helped kill Latin was its total failure to even recognise words and phrases from other languages, never mind absorb them. The French language will probably go the same way as long as the French government is so determined to keep that language "pure".
The English language is capable of absorbing words from other cultures to suit circumstances and to reflect events. Probably, it is possible to trace the history of the British people by studying the changes in the language over the centuries. The English we now speak is not greatly different from that spoken by our ancestors a thousand years ago. It made no difference to the language in general when the Normans popped in for a spot of ruling and insisted on French being spoken. That may have worked at court but the vast majority of the population (the good old yeomen and peasants) stuck to English, thank you very much. Some French words sneaked in (notice that? "Sneaked", not "Snuck". Pay attention!) and we ended up with words such as 'garage' and 'envelope' etc. and there are the Indian and other Asian words such as 'bungalow' and 'char' etc. All that is good stuff and has served only to enrich our language. We probably have more ways of saying the same thing than any other language. We can use the language skilfully to deliberately say as little or as much about a subject as we would like, just by altering the choice of words.
As I said, all good stuff, so what is my grumble about?
I shall list a few:
Football players and managers; they now constantly refer, in interviews, to their club as the "football club" and they will refer to a good "football game". Do me a favour, drop the 'football'. We know it is bloody football, that is why we are watching you talk nonsense on Match of the Day, not Gardener's Question Time!
Once upon a time, it was enough for the players or managers to say "This is a great club". They didn't need to constantly say "football club" as they knew we are not so stupid as to make the mistake of thinking they were talking about the local social club or the working man's club down the road.

TV news readers; they pay so much attention to their pronunciation that they overdo it. Hence, we now hear about Islamic population going to Saudi Arabia for the "Harzzhh". Sod off! It is pronounced "Haj" with the middle letter being what is known as a short 'A' and the third letter sounding like the initial letter of the name 'John'. Haj!
The same people have, on occasion, been heard to talk about "Parkistarn" and to refer to that 4 yearly feast of athletics as the "Erlimpics".
For God's sake! For a £2Million a year salary, you should be able to do a lot better than that!

They also share a speech impediment with many of our current crop of politicians; they can not pronounce many old English words in a manner which is remotely recognisable to the majority of the population. Some examples include 'magistrate'. Mr. Blair is the chief culprit here and he, along with news readers, insists on pronouncing this as 'magistrut'.
I have noticed recently a number of occasions where the word 'decade' has been mispronounced with the emphasis being placed on the last syllable. When you do that, you change the word from one meaning a span of ten years to one that means rotten, in other words, the past tense of the verb 'decay'.

Anyone on the radio or telly; "on the back of" is a stupid, vacuous expression which means sod all to the average person who spends 10 milliseconds thinking of a suitable word to describe an event. Nothing comes "on the back of" other than chaps riding elephants. If one of those turned up at your front door, you would rightly be able to say "he came on the back of an elephant".
A rise in the bank rate does NOT come on the back of whatever. Maybe it follows something else or perhaps it is either subsequent or even consequential to something else but never, ever on the "back of". Drop it!
Had to buy new boots?
A message for the small but vocal minority of our armed forces who give the profession of soldier (or sailor or airman) a bad name: "Shut up. Just shut the *&*& up!"
First we heard non-stop moaning about having to buy your own boots. Are you telling us you were never issued with boots? Did you do all your square bashing in those lovely trainers? Or did you not fancy the boots you were issued because the Yanks you were serving alongside had "the Gucci kit"? Do you think there is no other generation that has done the desert bit before you or did someone tell you that you were the first soldiers in the Army to go somewhere hot?
Well, let me tell you they were wrong. When I was told my first posting, a lot of my mates laughed their heads off and couldn't stop saying "Sand, shit and flies!". Fair enough, that wasn't a bad description of Aden but they had overlooked the other elements involved; "RPG, mortars and Kalashnikovs" (oh, and hand grenades).
When I reported to stores to get my kit, I found I was going to have to wear some rather baggy shorts, longs in the evenings after sunset and God help any man who is in the wrong trousers either side of that time, along with a rather natty little number in khaki cotton bush jackets. As for boots, well we just had to soldier on with the same old boots that you had brought with you from England. In my case it was a pair of ammo boots and a couple of pairs of "Boots DMS". To go with the shorts (remember, only after sunrise and before sunset!), we were given the strangest pair of woollen socks you had ever seen; they had no feet! Hose tops was the official name for these things and they were worn from the ankle upward. The boots on your feet, along with either gaiters or puttees round your ankles, made them look like dark blue school socks.
What spoiled the whole thing was the dhobi wallah using half a bucket of starch for every jacket he washed and ironed. Oh, they looked smart enough when returned from the dhobi with every crease looking lethal in its sharpness and they could be stood in the corner of your locker until needed. Putting them on was not a comfortable task and was absolute murder if you happened to have been sun burned recently. Still, once you had stepped foot outside the billet, the sweat made them nice and soft and pliable again, even if they did stink a bit by the time you got to work. another nice touch was the addition of webbing. In the case of my regiment, it was 1937 pattern which was scrubbed and blancoed to a parade ground standard with the result that, when going out on patrol at night or when doing your stroll around the camp perimeter fence on guard duty, you had a brilliant white cross right in the middle of your back. I have to say though, in defence of the old style webbing, the ammo pouches were of just the right size and shape to carry a tin of Tiger!
Oh, and one other thing; it was hot. Hotter and more humid than you could imagine. And I don't want to hear that it is hotter in Iraq. I have been there (and Aden and Oman and Dubai and Abu Dhabi and Jeddah and Riyadh and Bahrain and Damascus and Amman and Dhahran and Qatar and last but not least, Kuwait). Believe me, Aden was the worst.
Now, back to those boots (oh, I almost forgot, we were also issued with "Boots, Jesus" but nobody ever wore them as far as I can remember). Our boots didn't cause mass purchases of replacements. We wore them, we polished them and we powdered our feet and changed our socks regularly and my couple of pairs lasted more than a couple of years.
So what was wrong with yours?
Second; Accomodation. Oh what a contentious topic! I actually heard someone calling a radio programme recently to complain that her son said that when he lies on his bed and stretches his arms out on either side, he can almost touch the walls of his room.
Hang on! Did she say "His room"? Is he the RSM then? No, of course not. He has one of these recently built or refurbished barrack rooms that comes with quilt and built in ablutions etc.
No doubt some misguided person in authority somewhere thought that what the troops need (perhaps to take their minds off their boots) is some "4 Star" accomodation. That would be nice, little single rooms with built-in khazi, just like Holiday Inn.
Well, that was a cock up in someone's thinking.
Single rooms with all mod cons might sound a good idea but I am sure that, one day, some highly paid psychologist or sociologist will work out that what would really be excellent for the morale of the troops would be to have large barrack rooms with lots of men in together. Just like the old days, in fact. I see the government has just finished spending an arm and a leg refurbishing the old Vimy blocks at Catterick. To any of my readers who have spent any time there recently, think back to how the blocks look as you approach from the modern gate. The first block was known as Vimy C. The first room that you see on the ground floor on the end nearest the gate is where I spent a couple of years, living with 13 other men. Next to that room was a small room which was officially designated a study room. The use to which it was actually put was as a convenient place to play cards and scoff the leg of lamb you had just nicked from the cookhouse at 01:00. The point I want to make about the barrack room however is that it served a purpose other than giving you a bed with a roof over your head. Being stuck in such close confines with a bunch of your workmates, there was a spirit of camaraderie which made you more of a unit than a mere collection of soldiers. You soon got used to the non-stop farting and the smell of someone else's boots permeating throughout the barrack room. (Ventilation didn't work in those Catterick winters as it consisted of two options only; Window Open and Window Shut). You quickly learned to get on with each other and become a part of a team, particularly in the mornings when trying to get the place looking good enough for the SSM's inspection. I know it is typical of a grumpy old fart to say "it was character and team building" but it was and there's an end to it.
I suspect that a lot of today's whingers (I don't make the mistake of thinking that the Army is permeated with whole battalions doing "whingeing by numbers") would have positively crapped themselves if they saw the accomodation I was given in Botswana.
While the infantry detachment there had taken over a school and lived in the classrooms, I and 3 other mates, had to make do with the school's pig sty. I kid you not. It was a pig sty made up of 6 vertical poles stuck in the ground in two ranks and some timers along the top to make what was essentially the frame of a building. The roof was straw and was full of gaps. There were no walls. And when I arrived there, it was raining for the first time in 7 years. Everywhere was knee deep in water, including our little shack. We improvised walls and roof with canvases pinched off a couple of Bedford three tonners. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to stretch to 4 walls so the entrance wall/door was two army issue blankets that were literally nailed to the timber lintel over one end. I was living in that for 5 months and have no complaints at all. After all, I only caught malaria once!

To provide a little balance here, regardless of what I think of the current complaints culture, I have to say I have some sympathy with the blokes in Iraq.
The government had no right to send you there, with or without the "right kit".
Afghanistan is a slightly different story and I think it is right that we should go and sort out the loonies over there. Just think, if the dip sticks in London had not squandered so many people and resources in the pointless and illegal invasion of Iraq, perhaps the job in Afghanistan would be over by now and you could all be down the boozer before last orders!
To the lads (and lasses) serving their country quietly and proudly, from one old soldier, hats of to you and we are all proud of you.
To the malcontents that have discovered this new sport of running to the press with your gripes, petty or large, real or imagined, shut up. Get out of the mob and let the professionals get on with their job. You will be doing your country a service.
I have seen and read of cases coming to court where the defendant was accused of something along the lines of "Unlawfully obtaining pecuniary advantage" or something like that. Maybe "Obtaining money by false pretences" would have the been the charge.
Whatever the terminology, the cases I have in mind have been people who have lied about qualifications, previous experience etc in order to gain employment in a job for which they are not at all qualified.
Well, serves them right.
But, what I have in mind just now is this: "Where are the boundaries when deciding whether a person should be charged in this manner? What is the dividing line between criminal and not criminal in these dodges and wheezes?"
The reason I am thinking about this is this:
If it is fairly clear cut when deciding whether or not to charge a person with a criminal offence if they are thought to have obtained a job, particularly a well paid job, by mis-representing their qualifications and making promises they have no prospect of honouring, when will the House of Commons be up before the beak? All 600 or so of them.
Hands up who is tired of hearing prospective members of parliament promising everything from free Mars bars to allowances to enable one-legged persons to buy new toilet cleaning fluid and then seeing those promises quickly forgotten once we have given them a job.
Make no mistake about that last phrase, "given them a job", for that is exactly what happens when we vote for a wannabe MP. The process works like this. Lots of people are taken in by a set of promises, all nicely wrapped up in some fancy rhetoric, to place an 'X' against the Job Seeker's name on a ballot form. If there enough of these 'X' marks, then the Job Seeker is given a job. If you were one of those who marked that person's name with an 'X', then you and your like minded citizens have granted that person a job.
The job is generally expected to entail doing a spot of work in their constituency and a spot of work in Westminster. The people who allocated the 'X' to that person's name quite rightly expect the winner to go off and as part of their new job, to battle to fulfil promises they made in exchange for the much sought after 'X'.
("You've got the job, based on what you have told us, so go away and do what you said you would").
Well, we all know what comes next, don't we boys and girls?
The new boy reports for work and for the first few weeks, sits and watches how the others do their jobs, hopefully learning from them along the way. During this settling in period, he or she will watch the antics of the old hands and quickly realise that there is a clique here or there to which he would like to belong.
Bugger the vacuous promises! The new employee wants nothing more than to be liked by his new mates in his new work place and will wag his tail, roll over and have his tummy tickled or whatever it takes to become accepted among the old hands.
Then, when his initial contract of employment is up for renewal, off he or she goes, back to the suckers who so willingly gave him all the 'X's needed to get the job and starts all over again.
When tackled on the question of why most, or even all, of his promises have not been kept, there will be a fantastic series of "reasons" and the blame machine will immediately engage high gear. Out will come the tired old clap trap about "the other parties" and how they thwarted new boy's efforts to introduce the free handbag exchange bill or how the speaker exercised a guillotine and cut him off just as he was about to introduce that legislation that would have seen all his constituents have their houses re-roofed in gold leaf.
"Damn the other lot! We must keep faith and maintain our pressure on the others at Westminster who would thwart our every effort to honour our pledges. Vote for me and strike another blow for freedom and democracy! Don't let's lose heart at this critical juncture; we will take the fight to the other lot's back yard".
And like lemmings, we will probably all just do the same thing we did last time. Dish out those precious 'X's and send the bugger off to disappoint us all again.
Well, I have a proposition.
For each promise that a potential MP makes during the pre-election campaigning and then fails to honour, let them be prosecuted for "Unlawfully obtaining pecuniary advantage" or however it is termed. Let us see the courts full of miscreants who have conned us (for that, surely, is what it is, a great big con) into giving them a well paid job, regardless of whether they were suitable for the job or whether they had any intentions at all to do the job with which they were tasked when hired.
Anyone who lies through his teeth in order to get a job that may pay him in excess of £200,000 per annum ought to have those lying teeth removed. Preferably by Basher Bloggs that well known man about town, currently doing a 10 year stretch in Walton for GBH.
Some more things that annoy me:
Weather forecasters; experts in two word alliteration!
Why can they not speak the same sort of language as the majority of the population?
Why do they seem to have some sort of compulsion to show off their education (GCE English Language, Communications & Media Studies etc) when trying to describe the weather?
Some examples are..."Damp and Dismal"..."Damage & Destruction"..."Misty & Murky"..."Wet & Windy"..."Spits & Spots" (of rain).
How about this for an idea?
Why don't they have a go at describing the weather with the following terms?
I think we all understand those terms well enough (and if you don't, you are obviously not British!).