Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Orange, green and now amber alerts ... no wonder I’m getting alarmed

Last Wednesday, as I was driving along in the car, I heard the BBC weather man tell us that there was an ‘amber’ alert for the next day.

It was a while before he actually described what the weather was going to be like, so for a few moments I knew the colour of the alert, but not what it actually meant.

Amber alert hmmm. Maybe I was away when this system of colour coding the weather was introduced, but I certainly don't remember ever hearing that term before.

Is it new? It's new to me, anyway.

For a moment, in the car, I was confused. Amber alert? Should I duck? Will things be hurtling at me in a dangerous fashion? Just how bad is amber anyway?

Perhaps my brain works in non-meterological ways, but the mention of amber immediately put me in mind of dinosaurs and fossils and insects trapped in amber or big chunky jewellery with lumps of amber on a chain. It never occurred to me that it's the colour that comes between red and green on the traffic lights.

Pretty soon though I realised the man was telling us that the weather was going to be pretty bad. Not dreadful, just pretty bad. On a scale of one to devastated, it was going to be about seven.

Amber. Such a lovely word, for such an un-lovely circumstance.

Naomi Long gave warnings of Orange and Green alerts in Westminster this week. In the coming decade, apparently, we're |going to have one centenary after another and she was alerting the powers-that-be to the potential for such events to be divisive rather than unifying.

One NI minister, Hugo Swire, obviously doesn't know this place too well, because he warned the parties here to ensure that nobody is able to “hijack history to suit their own narrow and biased agendas.” Ha!

As I say — he's obviously a stranger to our ways.

Actually, he does us a disservice. Our parties don't even NEED history. Some of them are able to hijack the present day to suit their own narrow and biased agendas (See any report on the City Hall of the past week).

So the weather's amber and politics is too green for those who prefer orange, so they're seeing red. “I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow .”

I thought we had defences in place to see us safely through the turbulent times. Agreements, policies, statements of intent about “no more them and us” and pledges to do what it takes to give everyone a better life in No'then, I'eland, The North, The Six Counties, Here.

But it seems our new structures aren't always robust enough to cope.

Even the recently opened Peace Bridge across the River Foyle had to close temporarily, due to stormy weather.

That's quite a metaphor.

But back to the car. There I was, feeling stupid for not knowing immediately what the weather man was talking about.

How useless I'd be in an emergency with someone yelling over the tannoy, “Amber alert! Amber alert!” and me going, “Eh, sorry, could you just expand on that a little for me?” as, CRASH! BANG! WALLOP! I get knocked off my feet by a unionist protestor flying through the air.

I've since read an article on colour coding and now I understand. It's so much easier to grasp when it's in black and white.

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