I think it’s in “That Hideous Strength” that CS Lewis introduces a couple who share a liking for “weather” – not “good” weather, but weather in general.  What sensible people, and of course they’re British. In similar vein, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s book “The Victorians” comments on Prince Albert’s early days in this country: “he disliked, as some visitors do, the generally delightful British climate.”

Politically, J R-M and I are poles apart, but I agree with him about the delightfulness of the British climate – temperate, changeable and unpredictable as it gloriously is.

It is temperate. How fortunate we are! We don’t usually burn, freeze or parch. Gardening, farming, hiking, camping and outdoor sport to participate in and spectate: we take all these things for granted, for two-thirds of the year. The grass is green. The trees are plentiful and many are deciduous, giving us at least three stages of beauty, and ending up with autumn leaves to scrunch.

It is both changeable and unpredictable (not quite the same thing.) Of course this has its disadvantages: wet Bank Holidays and weddings, seeds planted just before a late frost etc, Rain Stopped Play, never knowing how thick a coat or jumper you’ll need.

But really it’s not that difficult:  in summer assume you need a jumper unless it’s obvious you don’t; in winter assume a coat and gloves ditto.

I’m sure there are many people who want to wake up in the morning every day knowing what the weather will be like. I’m not one of them.

As one gets older, some of the following pleasures may fade:

  • Stomping through puddles in waterproof boots
  • Singing in the rain
  • Pushing against a fresh wind, as the mental cobwebs are blown away
  • Spotting a rainbow exactly where it should be – or noticing one by accident
  • Watching washing dance on the line
  • The unique soft crunch of stepping into fresh snow
  • Snuggling down with a book and a cup of tea, while the rain lashes against the window
  • Watching the shapes and movements of clouds
  • Tracing the lines of frost on a leaf or a spider’s web
  • Picnicking in the sunshine
  • And yes, occasionally, sitting on a beach without a jumper and still, amazingly, being warm

But they are all pleasures; all weather-related.

You may object that some of these are best experienced from indoors, and this is true. As Richard Adams says in “Watership Down”: “many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it.” Yes, indeed, but how enjoyable it is: cradling the hands round a mug of hot tea; hearing the windows rattle; snuggling under the duvet. In the days before central heating, sitting as close to the gas fire as possible, or even on top of the Aga lid (we had an old-fashioned kitchen.)

Yes, we have a lot of damp chilly days. (Some languages may have many words for snow; we have a lot of words and phrases for rain, from “spitting” to “the heavens opened.”) But there’s often a varied light-and-cloud show even then. And it very very rarely rains all day.

Complaining, or commenting, on it is a basic conversational staple, convenient for any two or more people who are in the same place – hence non-controversial and democratic.

(It occurs to me to wonder if this is always good. If someone says “lovely day,” or “horrible day,” does one ever dare to disagree? Is it even rude to reply, “Well, actually I like the rain/it’s too hot for me”?)

There are people who for genuine reasons of health don’t do well with our cold damp winters. There are others who suffer very seriously from the darkness that creeps over more and more of the day in winter.

But I’m afraid I’m the smarmy person who (on the whole!) pretty much likes it all.

Love from the PPI Blogger

  • Clint Redwood

    30th April 2021 at 2:59 pm Reply

    It’s interesting to notice that, while the British climate has always been unpredictable, it has got rather more so, at least as far as weather forecasters are concerned. I remember in the early 2000s, that the weather forecasters were saying that they could predict the five day forecast pretty much as accurately as the 24 hour forecast had been in the eighties. However, in the last few years, the forecasts have become increasingly inaccurate, and what has been really interesting with having multiple forecast apps on a phone, is how different the forecasts are. You would expect, that with different forecast algorithms, that they would be different, but assuming the algorithms had any validity, that they would converge as they get closer to the present, but if anything I would say from personal experience, that they diverge the closer to now you get.

    This suggests to me that the algorithms that used to work well in the UK a few years ago, no longer do, which combined with the plethora of “most X on record” months we’ve had in the last few years, such as “most frosts in April on record” we’ve had this month, that the climate has most definitely changed.

  • Stephen Hall

    4th May 2021 at 12:13 pm Reply

    I enjoyed your post Penny, and agree that we have a pretty enviable climate in the UK, though I suppose it’s hard to argue that the weather in both Caithness and Cornwall is perfect, as they are very different. If we could be provided with a slightly more continental climate (a degree or two colder in Winter; a degree or two warmer in Summer), I wouldn’t complain.

    I have a theory that everybody’s favourite climate is the climate of 500 miles south of where they are. Hence Scots find the south of England in Summer delightfully balmy, whereas we find France and Spain far too hot. The English prefer Brittany or the Dordogne, while the Parisians head for Provence.

    The variability in our weather is certainly interesting and a pleasurable topic for conversation, but is slightly tarnished for me now by the nagging fear that every dry/ wet/ hot/ cold spell is a harbinger of disastrous climate change!

    Being a gardener is a good way to appreciate the weather – I find the state of the soil is a better record of what the last month’s weather has been like than my memory (and if rain falls at night you hardly notice it). And keeping weather records (as I have occasionally done over the years until my maximum/ minimum thermometer inevitably fails) is a good way feeling connected with what’s going on weather-wise.

    You deny any favouritism when it comes to weather, but I find rain after a really hot dry spell hard to beat – that amazing earthy smell!

    • Penelope Wallace

      14th May 2021 at 4:34 pm Reply

      I agree about the tarnishing, Stephen, and am impressed by the theory!

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