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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

Rather-nice-weather Chasers

I sat with my film crew, awaiting the opportunity to begin making our documentary for the Discovery Science Channel. All that was needed were atmospheric conditions that would prompt Bart and his team to leap into their van and speed towards some location dictated by the weather report.

Suddenly, Bart appeared from his cabin, urgently waving a piece of paper. ‘We’ve got one approaching Bodega Bay,’ he shouted to us as he, Don and Shelley scrambled into their weather-chaser. They then sped away down the track, towards the highway.

I ran with my cameraman and sound recordist to our four-by-four. Within seconds we were pursuing Bart at breakneck speed towards the Californian coast.

The ride took about forty minutes before both vehicles pulled up in a parking lot overlooking the sands.

I climbed from our pickup and glanced up at the deep blue sky, gently punctuated with a few puffy, white clouds. It was late afternoon in early September and the temperature was very comfortable – probably in the mid to high twenties.

For Bart, there was no time to lose. He pulled a collapsible picnic table from the van and rushed towards the beach. Don and Shelley followed, carrying chairs and a cool box. Their expertise in weather chasing was evident – within two minutes, all were sitting in recliners on the golden sand and Shelley was starting to open a bottle of wine.

‘Did you get all that action on film?’ I asked our cameraman, Buzz.

‘From the moment they got into their van,’ Buzz replied. ‘What do we do now?’

‘Follow me down to the beach,’ I said. ‘I think it’s probably a good time to record an interview with Bart and the others.’

Buzz and our sound recordist followed me to where the team were sitting.

‘It looks like you’ve found the conditions you wanted,’ I ventured to Bart. ‘Is this a good time to talk to you about weather chasing?’

‘It sure is,’ Bart replied. ‘Sit yourself down in that spare recliner.’

Shelley passed me a glass of chilled white wine as I lowered myself onto the seat. I smiled at her in acknowledgement.

A light, cool, refreshing breeze ruffled my hair, and I quickly stroked it back into place. ‘You began your career as a storm chaser,’ I said to Bart, commencing the interview.

‘That’s right,’ he replied. ‘We used to wait for reports of tornados or hurricanes and then drive right to the centre of those storms.’

‘Can you explain the purpose of that storm chasing to our viewers?’ I said.

‘Frankly,’ Bart admitted, ‘there wasn’t much of a scientific purpose. There was no useful research that could be done by a bunch of amateurs, driving around like lunatics, especially as we had to spend most of our time dodging falling trees, collapsing buildings, flying debris and tsunami-like storm waves.’

‘It’s amazing we weren’t killed,’ added Shelley.

Why did you do it, then?’ I asked.

‘It was really exciting waiting for the weather reports and then rushing to the locations,’ Bart answered. ‘It was a terrific hobby and made us all feel adventurous and important. Also, it was all funded by TV stations like yours who kept sending crews to follow and film us.’

‘I got the impression from those reports that you were discovering useful information,’ I said.

‘We invented a few scientific sounding experiments,’ said Don. ‘I’m our team’s science expert,’ he digressed in a tone of pride. ‘But we never got any new or useful results – how could we?’

‘So you quit storm chasing,’ I said.

‘We loved it, though,’ Shelley commented. ‘Every chase was great until we got into those fucking storms. Then the weather was always really, really crap. That’s how we came up with the idea of rather-nice-weather chasing.’

‘It has all the excitement of storm chasing,’ Don explained, ‘except that when we get to the centre of the rather-nice-weather, it’s a Hell of a lot better than a bloody tornado.’ Don removed a thermometer from his pocket and handed it to Bart. ‘We’re conducting a critical experiment,’ he said to me, ‘on how to maintain white wine at the correct temperature in rather-nice-weather conditions, like these.’

‘I’m also researching how easy it is to get to sleep at various times of day with these atmospheric parameters,’ said Shelley, settling herself lower in the recliner and closing her eyes.

‘It’s just so much more pleasant than storm chasing,’ concluded Bart, 'and you guys still pay us for documentaries, just like in the old days, as if our daft, pointless hobby has some relevance to the wider world.’

We continued filming for about two hours as Bart, Don and Shelley monitored the weather conditions and conducted vital experiments into swimming in the sea, sunbathing on the beach and eating ice-creams. Then, suddenly, I felt a cooler breeze on my face.

Bart clearly felt it too and looked at the others with a heightened awareness and possibly some anxiety reflected in his eyes. ‘The weather’s turning less nice,’ he said. ‘We’d better get the Hell out of here!’

At that exact moment Don’s mobile rang. ‘It’s a report from New Jersey,’ he announced with excitement. ‘It looks like some rather-nice-weather is heading their way. It should hit at about noon tomorrow.’

‘OK,’ said Bart, glancing at his watch, ‘we can get to San Francisco airport tonight and take an east coast flight to meet that mother.’

‘I’ll ring the National Geographic Channel,’ said Shelley, pulling out her mobile. ‘They’re sure to want to send yet another film crew to join us.’

I stood on the beach and watched with admiration as the team packed their van with a speed honed in the teeth of hurricanes.

Bart’s urgent voice sounded across the sand: ‘Nice to have met you guys, but we’ve gotta go.’

A few seconds later, I could see nothing but a cloud of dust as their van raced from the parking lot towards the team’s next adventure in their relentless pursuit of rather-nice-weather.