River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Notes from a newcomer

February 2007

Marion provides a refreshing look at the infamous British weather

"Oh, write about the rain!" exclaimed a friend unhelpfully when I complained (as I often do) that I had no idea for this month's column.

"What? Five hundred words about rain?" I countered doubtfully, but later I reflected that any true Brit could easily write five thousand words about rain.Even my two-year-old grandson can chant 'Rain, rain, go away, come again another day' although he frowns in puzzlement when I offer the alternative version of 'come again on washing day'. He's right - it doesn't make sense in the

age of the tumble dryer.

As a nation we are obsessed with the weather even though our climate is pretty unremarkable compared with other countries. We don't fear monsoons or have to batten down the hatches against tornadoes. No sandstorms or year-long

droughts for us, but if you want to strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere in the British Isles, you will be on safe ground with 'Hosepipe ban? They must

be joking!'

Every evening we all eagerly await the weather forecast - not just those chaps of a certain age who have a crush on Look East's Julie. But even lovely Julie has to tread carefully because we are deeply unforgiving of anyone who gets it wrong, as Michael Fish famously found to his cost in 1987. One of the absurdities of life today is TV forecasters apologising for bad weather as though

it is actually their fault if the wind unexpectedly speeds up or changes direction.

Everyone's eagerness to know precisely what tomorrow will bring is a bit odd when our exposure to the elements is limited to the short walk from a centrally heated houses to a waterproof car. After all, few of us huddle at bus stops or toil in the fields, these days.

British weather may not be extreme but what we love about it is that we never quite know what's coming. As Shakespeare correctly observed, rough winds do shake the darling buds of May. If it were predictable, there'd be nothing to talk about and, even worse, no excuse for a good grumble.

My late Uncle Len used to be teased about his diary which consisted entirely of what the weather was like each day but similar records in old diaries make fascinating reading. On February 10th 1906 Edith Holden noted, 'Rain and wind from the South-West; rapid thaw'. By contrast, in 1779 on 27th February, Parson Woodforde wrote, 'It was like June today. Thank God for such glorious weather'. Who knows what February 2007 has up its sleeve?

From one point of view, global warming is a gift to a race already fascinated by climatic inconsistencies. Even sceptics like myself are obliged to take it seriously now that national treasure Sir David Attenborough has joined the ranks of the believers. In my diary I shall write that today (14th January) was a dry bright day and in my garden the snowdrops and aconites were already in bloom. Posterity, take note.

Marion Clarke

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