My mother used to say that what distinguished Britain from every other nation was that while we had weather they had a climate. I was never entirely sure what that meant beyond:
(a) she was irredeemably snobbish; and
(b) our weather was a sort of goldilocks experience when compared to those countries who suffered from excessive heat or cold, rain or wind. A decent coat, sensible shoes, appropriate headwear and a disinclination to be communist was all one needed to survive.
Gradually that is changing as the insidious fingers of globalisation seek out out weak spots and, heavens to Betsy, we become more integrated into the wild and woolly weather patterns of the rest. I mean, we even grow award winning wine here. We’re almost French!
If I look back the only severe weather event from before the late 80s was the interminable winter of 1962/63 when we had icebergs off the north Kent coast. Now these weren’t the sort of mountainous conglomerations that sunk the Titanic – they’ve have struggled to scratch a pedalo – but they were ice and they did bob in the sea. I was only six so my memories are limited to there being lots of snow, mum pulling the Archaeologist and me on a sled to go shopping and dad grumbling. Actually scrub that last; 1962/63 wasn’t unique in the broad history of dad grumbles.
I managed to survive my school years with the occasional drenching from summer thunder, my university and college of law years with a bitterly cold January that turned my hands into ornaments and put me off long term motorbiking and my early days as a lawyer in London with more summer rain ruining the occasional cricket match.
Then came the big storm of 1987. A hurricane ripped across southern England, bringing with it 100 mph winds, some fabulous tales of wind damage, a few sad deaths and the inevitable renaming of Sevenoaks as Oneoak. One of the stories I loved was of the woman who that week had taken delivery of a brand new VW Golf. So pristine was it that she’d not plucked up the courage to put it in her garage but on the fateful stormy night she watched in horror as a tree next to the Golf, parked on the roadside, began to batter it like John Cleese when his mini won’t work in a Fawlty Towers episode. Eventually her distress drove her outside, now that she had decided that it needed to be put away. She lent into the wind, lifted the garage door and watched in horror as the door blew out of her hands, the roof lifted into the air, detaching itself from the walls which, in a sort of reverse Ikea, became a kit again and collapsed in on themselves.
I missed the fun, however. The Textiliste and I were in Peru, Lima to be exact and it wasn’t until twenty four hours later that we heard from a very drunk Reuters correspondent what had happened. Frantic phone calls home revealed everyone was safe, though we had to wait until we arrived back to find out if the house was okay.
It was and as a bonus the fence I’d put up that Easter was still standing. I’m not known for my DIY skills so I was more than a little chuffed at this. That self aggrandising glow lasted until I spoke to John my next door neighbour.
“How’s the fence?”
“Good. It stood up well.”
Confused look, followed by laughter. “I put it back up. Didn’t you know?”
Of course he was winding me up. Though it did seem odd that the nails in the fence were newer than the ones I’d used. Maybe the wind had polished them.
Since then we’ve had biblical floods destroying many points west, temperatures above 100F and an absence of significant snow down south for the last few years. And over the last three days two storms, Dudley and Eunice (why are they named like geriatric dance partners when they have the explosive force of a dodgy vindaloo) have battered us.
I suppose, if we are to become properly continental with our weather – and if Brexit was meant to bring us a bonus, surely it was that our weather would revert to the benign 1970s when we didn’t kowtow to some euro dictat – we will now suffer from one of those annoying winds – a sirocco or mistral – that make you pull your shoulder blades so far back they fuse together.
grrr… brrr… and the trees are still dad dancing…