All kinds of weather

Thursday 29th September 2011

HEAT-wave coming this week, they tell me. That’s nice. Get the shorts back on. Maybe even lunch alfresco at the weekend. Warm autumn days have their own theatricality: that glinting light; a spit and spat of conkers; the crispness of leaf; honey-gold and soft of swish; a time for teacakes and apple crumble.

Unkind we are, in this country, to weather. It’s like our attitude to certain sports – football or tennis, for example. As if we’re telling the rest of the planet:

“Look, we invented this thing. Yes, you’ve surpassed us, but the weather is an important part of our cultural heritage. We may not have the best there is, but we reserve the right to talk about it till the cows come home.”

Having founded the world’s first Meteorological Society in 1823, we soon allowed it to fall into a mundane puddle and unfurled instead an umbrella organisation called Met Office. In 1926, it appointed an honorary president, in perpetuum. He’s called Eeyore. The institution’s motto is, Don’t Blame Me If It Rains.

Most countries have seasons. We have spells. There are three: damp, chilly and blustery. We often decide on what weather we’re having by peering out of the window. Everyone understands what is meant when asked:

“What’s it doing?”

Replies vary, but the usual gist is:

“Bucketing it down. I’d wrap up warm if I were you. Don’t like the look of those clouds. Expect there’ll be a frost tonight.”

Occasionally, of course, the sun blazes down and we cannot believe our luck. We reduce clothing to a minimum, fill paddling pools, bask and bathe in this unforeseen glory… only to declare that it’s terribly sticky, unpleasantly humid and far too hot to do anything. A thunderstorm would be welcome, in order to clear the air. Besides, the garden needs a good downpour to stop everything wilting.

While I’ve been writing this, a breeze has arisen. I’m off out for a walk. And to test my theory about leaves. Do they always swirl in a clockwise direction, or only in the northern hemisphere?


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