August 23, 2021


As usual, this summer we are obsessed with the weather. Every time a week of sun is predicted, it promptly dissolves into cloud, mizzle and then short sharp bursts of rain. It is particularly key for the farm who, led by Simon the farm manager, are trying to harvest the oats, wheat and barley. The whole enterprise ends up happening in snatches of time.

In today’s world we keep an eye on the BBC weather, the Met Office, Metcheck plus a host of other platforms accessible through our phones. Often, each site gives wildly varying predictions so you end up scrolling through them all until you find one you are happy with and then end up just as disappointed when it proves unreliable.

For millennia before phones, we learnt to look for other signs of what the weather might do: scents in the air, cows lying down, the furling up of petals and the shape of the clouds in the sky. Our ancestors were more closely tuned to messages from nature and spent more time outside. They needed to gather as much information as they could as they had less immediate protection. Sadly, this year there have been precious few evenings with a clear red sky, and thus only a few high summer days, although each one has been precious.

Of course, in some parts of the world the challenges thrown by nature can be somewhat more dramatic than anything we see here in rather damp England: volcanic eruptions, extreme storms and killer heatwaves, all of which are happening around us this summer. It seems entirely inappropriate therefore to complain of the problems caused by too much rain and too little sunshine yet the longer-term effects of a ruined harvest can cause just as many serious issues as a sudden disaster. Very little of the wheat produced in this country so far this season has been of millable quality which will have implications for the food supply industry over the coming months. We have named everything in nature giving us the illusion that we are in charge but actually we are doing well if we can maintain something of a partnership with a force we have very little control over in reality.

The human race spends an almost alarming amount of its time trying to work out what will come next. Your phone tries to tell you what you are writing before you’ve started with often farcical results. It is a brave person who sends off a text these days without double checking. Fortunes are made or lost on stock market predictions – in a way really just sophisticated gambling whilst for many this year’s game of choice is “where can I go on holiday, if at all?” as we try to second guess the latest path taken by both the virus and the politicians.

Predicting how to win the lottery, what horse might win a race or what the future might hold is the less analytical side of this obsession whilst working out what customers might look for and what business trends can be founds is the more scientific end of the spectrum. Informed predictions can lead to establishing a strategy but there is still that element of chance which can be overturned by the unexpected.

Inaccurate predictions combined with poor information and too brief reflection have certainly played their part in the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan at the moment. Undoubtedly many lessons will have to be learnt in terms of the analysis of information and the need for real knowledge of the history and geography of a people before the politicians sweep in to opine.

Understanding and a strategy based on real information combined with hard work generally gives you a good chance, over time, of achievement and a more orderly vision, culture and life. Short cuts in this sort of situation rarely lead to success, something that politicians often fail to remember. For the religious and political victims in Afghanistan, the flood victims in Germany and the people in Greece and France whose livelihoods have been destroyed by wildfires, the question now is if our predictions are so clearly very wrong, what do we then do? I hope we can listen and in human terms remember the tale of the good Samaritan.