I slumped on to the sofa after a successful venture into pre-Christmas Guildford, switching on Sky News to catch up with the day’s events while I chowed down on a couple of shortbread biscuits. Mid-munch, I was shocked by the urgency of the reporter’s voice as she described “a torrent, a watery avalanche that has ensnared tens of people fearing for their lives” over in America. This sounded terrible. Then, they said they were cutting to live shots of the terrible scene while transferring audio coverage to the local TV crew on the scene.
I was on the edge of my seat. This sounded as though it was a devastating scene, and I braced myself.
Maybe it was the shock. Maybe it was the relief. But what appeared on the screen, I’m afraid so say, make me instantly laugh. A water main had burst, making an admittedly large amount of water cascade down a local road, catching motorists unawares. And that was the scene that confronted me as I sat, mid-munch. The reporters evidently sensed this was the greatest amount of coverage they were ever going to have, and began ramping up their descriptive abilities. “The magnificent crews are attempting to LIFT people outta there,” they said, as if this was the riskiest manueuvre out of all the (non-existant) choices they had available. “HERE WE GO, HERE WE GO!” his colleague interrupted, as a human-sized basket swung into screenshot. Slowly, the helicopter crew lowered the basket through the windswept trees. After about 5 minutes of inane chatter, the basket was nearly in position. They sadly misjudged, and the basket collapsed onto the roof of one of the stranded cars. “THE… THE BASKET’S COLLAPSED!” said a now slightly out-of-breath reporter. “The basket is ON THE ROOF!”
And so it carried on, with ever more dramatic headlines at the bottom of the screen as the unmitigated crisis developed. The American team, at the end sounding completely exhausted, were increasingly talked over by the Sky presenters in the UK, calmly discussing the matter, even noting as one of the stranded drivers struggled out of his car that they weren’t “wearing the right shoes for this – although I imagine he wasn’t planning on being stranded in torrents of water.” No flies on that reporter.
The episode ended after about an hour with everyone rescued and nothing much further to report on. We finally switched back to the normal UK presenters, who – like me – looked a little exhausted just listening to it all.
For almost the first time, it made me appreciate the typical reserved outlook of the British.