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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
Walking into the sunset
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Online Magazine

The UK's longest-serving weather forecaster Michael Fish broadcasts for the last time on BBC television on Wednesday. After 32 years on the nation's screens, his moustachioed face is synonymous with weather forecasting but he has never lived down his comments prior to the 1987 storms.

Michael Fish
The dress sense that won him many fans
If his pension does not stretch far enough when he retires from the BBC, Michael Fish has a couple of back-up plans.

Firstly, he might auction some of the magnetic weather symbols from his early weather presenting days - which he currently uses as fridge magnets - on eBay.

If they do not spark a bidding frenzy he might flog a few autographs, having seen one of his own go for 4.99 on the online auction site.

After 32 years presenting the weather Fish is a national institution and recognised around the world, but considers himself an ordinary Met Office meteorologist and certainly not a celebrity.

"Weather forecasters are not personalities, we are just stuffy civil servants who analyse the weather between broadcasts," he says.

'Stuffy'

He is unable to understand his popularity but thinks one reason could be his dress sense, which has won him the accolades of Worst Dressed Man on Television and Best Dressed Man on Television.

He says: "When I started presenting I was not in the same mould as my predecessors. They would come in dull, staid suits and I would wear colourful jackets and jumpers.

"I was a lot younger than them and maybe that is why I stood out. Also, I'm on the television so often I have just become a familiar face."

FISH FACTS
Joined the Met Office in 1962
Joined BBC TV's weather team in 1974
Gave last forecast with magnetic symbols in 1984
He has worked with Bill Giles, Ian McCaskill and Basil Brush
Awarded MBE in 2004
Last live broadcast will be after BBC One's Ten O'Clock News

It is that familiarity which prompts hundreds of viewers a week to write to him asking for anything from an autograph to suggestions for a good holiday or a nice place to retire.

"People seem to think I will know these things, but even if I don't I still take the time to reply," he says.

But seeing as he does not like the sun and prefers cold, snowy conditions - he recently travelled to the Falklands - his suggestions might not have mass appeal.

One of the things he will be remembered for the most is his forecast before the huge storms which battered the UK in October 1987.

In a now infamous broadcast he said: "Earlier on today apparently a lady rang the BBC and said she heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well don't worry if you're watching, there isn't."

Pranks

Hours later gusts reaching 106 knots hit south-east England, causing great damage.

Fish says he was not talking about the UK when he made the comment and the repeated misinterpretation of his remarks angered him for a long time.

Now he is hoping to turn it to his advantage.

He says: "My remarks referred to Florida and were a link to a news story about devastation in the Caribbean that had just been broadcast.

"The phone call was a member of staff reassuring his mother just before she set off there on holiday. I did broadcast saying 'batten down the hatches there's some really stormy weather on the way' - if the full clip is used all would be revealed.

Fish fashions (and 30 years of television forecasting)

"It has been the bane of my life until now, but I'm hoping to cash in on it if any clever advertising executive wants to use me in a campaign for insurance or such like."

Over the years he has seen massive changes in weather presenting and was the last person to use magnetic weather symbols and the first to use computer graphics in 1984. Both systems have had their pro and cons.

He says: "The magnetic symbols provided fun for many of my colleagues and it wasn't unknown for someone to creep into the studio and reverse the polarity so that during the broadcast, instead of sticking to the metal plate, the symbols would shoot off and onto the floor.

"The computer graphics can also cause some scares, and you might have to change your underpants at the end of a broadcast, but hopefully the public haven't noticed the glitches."

In his 30-year career he has only missed one broadcast when the door handle to the office fell off in his hand and he couldn't get in.

As yet he has no plans for his retirement but definitely has no plans to put his feet up.

ASK MICHAEL FISH
Put your question to the BBC weatherman in a LIVE interactive forum on Wednesday, 6 October at 1445GMT/1545BST.

"I want to carrying working but what I will be doing I don't know," he says.

So, after 32 years on the nation's televisions, he may not be away for too long.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch Michael Fish's last weather bulletin



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