Statistically Speaking…

Along with the recent blanketing of snow dumped on our green and pleasant, I also had a rekindling of an annoyance that has often in the past crawled under my skin like a metaphoric bot fly larva to lay there and shit hot coals on my nerve endings. You may think I’m exaggerating and that I talk like this all the time but in fact, I haven’t used such hyperbole since the 18th February 1983. And that is a fine example of what was getting on my tits.

Picture the scene of a damp TV reporter standing in an ankle-high pile of slush as crawling cars swish loudly past him in the background. This bloke has been air-dropped into some winter wonderland and is going on about how badly the snow has affected the local community, traffic flow and services. At one point he turns to the camera and says, with sincerity and gravitas burning in his watery eyes, ‘This is the heaviest fall of snow in this area since two thousand and twelve.’

I pause, a mug of tea halfway to my mouth, and do some mental maths. Six years. Is that it? There was the same amount, or more, of snow in the same place just six years ago. Not exactly the dark end of the tunnel of history is it? Six winters ago there was some snow. Really? That’s breaking news? I could feel the bot fly maggot of annoyance spinning its fat barbed belly in my scalp.

This got me thinking about, and looking out for, lame statistics in all their many guises in the media. Wales is a popular go-to comparative reference it appears, with many things being likened to the space occupied by the song filled principality. The amount of rainforest disappearing every day is…the size of Wales. You can squeeze the whole population of the world into an area…the size of Wales. Wales is a country that borders England and is…the size of Wales. Fractions and multiples of Wales are also used as legitimate comparison currency. There is enough butter in the European Market to spread over a piece of toast…three times the size of Wales. If you laid out all the circumcised penises in the world in a circular pattern it would cover…one-eighth of Wales. The fact that most people, I assume, would still find it quite hard to picture anything in relation to the actual size of Wales doesn’t seem to matter a toss. Go on, how big is Wales in square miles? See, told ya. Of course, I know, I’m an expert, Wales has the same square miles within its borders…as Wales. And imagine trying to tell someone from Russia a fascinating fact and relating it to the size of Wales, they wouldn’t have a clue. I suppose you could show them an atlas but I can guess they would say, ‘Oh, you mean it’s the size of Mongolia.’ And an argument would ensue that could possibly be ended with a poison-tipped umbrella.

Harking back to dates (like in our snow example) is also a regular occurrence. ‘This is the worst winter since 1871.’ ‘This is the hottest summer since 1943.’ ‘This is the first time this team has won a match at this ground since 2001.’ ‘This is the largest stash of porno mags found under a hedge by a canal since 1979.’ But my favourite date used is ‘since records began’. How vague do they want to be? First off I have no idea when ‘records began’ for whatever it is they are spouting about, how are we supposed to put any context to the fact we’ve just been given without the informing date for when the ‘records began’? I reckon the reason they say ‘records began’ is because the ‘records began’ so close to the date of reporting it would be embarrassing to put accurate chronology to it. ‘This is the heaviest fall of fish from the sky since last Wednesday,’ or ‘This is the first time man has travelled this fast since 8 o’clock this morning.’ With the information of when ‘records began’, it’s not an exciting news story anymore, more like a tedious repetition of a fairly common occurrence.

Realising I was quite annoyed by this use of comparison I decided to start applying the same news reporting principles to my own life utterances because it’s not love I like to share with my fellow man, it’s petty grief. Yes, that might paint me as a shallow individual but as the saying goes ‘a trouble shared is a trouble halved’ and so if I share my petty annoyance with enough people I will be left with a fraction of it myself. A fraction so small it will be 10,000,000,000th the size of Wales.

I will be commenting on how nice my mugs of tea are, it being the best gob-full of char since the one I had at (insert time). I have had so much cheese in my diet since I was born that it would cover Wales in Red Leicester twice over…or is it Leicester in Red Wales? This is the most beer I have drunk since records began. This rant is the first one I have written that didn’t involve death, in some form or other, since Monday 5th March…2018!

The possibilities for my implementation of this foible are pretty endless, almost anything can be included and shall be. The thing is, if we ever meet do not be offended if I say something like, ‘You are the best-looking person I have said hello to in the last ten seconds,’ or ‘Your arse is half the size of Wales,’ or ‘You are the most annoying nob ‘ead since records began.’ It won’t be anything personal I will merely be trying for accuracy and to give you a reference anchor for your understanding to latch onto because as all reporters know we’re all just too fucking thick to take in information otherwise. How would I know if a twenty-foot drift of snow is deep or not if I didn’t know the same thing happened in 1963…only worse…and for ten times as long…and over an area the size of a seventh of Wales.

And don’t think I don’t know you’re thinking, ‘This is the biggest load of twaddle I’ve read since this useless dildo last put fingers to keyboard,’ because I’m on to you in a big way. A big way the size of Wales…plus the northern suburbs of Bristol.