Saturday, October 01, 2011

Whither Weather

The weather in England is usually temperate and benign.

Quite why so many conversations take place about the state of the weather in this country remains a mystery. There may be generational differences about this in that many of my generation who do not know or not very well, the man or woman they meet by chance, open conversations with comments about the weather. Maytrees children's generation however rarely uses weather as a conversation topic.

Thinking about this in the context of a common chance meeting such as when there is a packet too large for the postman to squeeze through the letter box; the postman will ring the bell to hand over the packet personally. My reaction usually is to thank him (or her) and to make an off hand remark about the rain or sunshine which in turn will lead to a response before we both move on. The younger generation tends to be more businesslike and simply takes in the parcel and full stop. The weather remark risks a surly response as the point is superficial and the postman may be busy or feeling irritable but the younger generation's way is cooler (not in the trendy sense) and perhaps there is already a surfeit of coolness between individuals. Sometimes a neutral remark about a common experience, and the weather affects us all, leads to something more.

 As for the weather itself: The past week has been wonderfully unseasonably sunny and warm with temperatures in the 80s f.

 Today the 1st of October, jogging over Wimbledon common at 7:30 am the mist was rolling away under the rising sun and everyone who one chanced to meet was in high spirits to match. An amusing chance encounter with one jogger out with his greyhound dogs, a young New Zealand couple running together and myself just about managing to maintain a semblance of jogging  went thus:

 The man with a greyhound puppy crossed the path ahead, the New Zealand couple were just behind me. I was running on automatic pilot enjoying the sun when the New Zealand girl runner remarked that; "that old boy is struggling a bit." My immediate thought was that she was probably right but that she could have waited until they over took me and were away out of earshot but then a second rather ancient looking  greyhound dog lolloped by. I turned to the New Zealand couple and said that at first I had thought she was talking about me. They both laughed and she slightly embarrassed made plain that as was by then obvious, her remark concerned the old greyhound dog. The 3 of us then ran together for a short spell discussing other runners and marathons gone by. Had the weather been cold wet and windy I expect that we would have all been concentrating on battling the elements too much to have   enjoyed  taking time for a laugh.

 Likewise in London during the past  working week many people seemed lighter hearted in the balmy sunshine than usual.

 The fact that weather in England is usually so predictable also means that when there is an exceptional bout of unusual weather it sticks in people's memories and gives rise to conversation. There have or course been some quite intemperate floods in England the not too distant past though nothing like as tragic as those which are affecting say Pakistan and earlier this year a few inches of snow during an unexpected time led to Heathrow Airport siezing up for a couple of days.

 My most vivid English weather memory is from 1963 when I was a boy at Beaumont College Old Windsor. The nearby River Thames froze solid so much so that someone (of course with the benefit of adult hindsight rather stupidly) drove his car on the iced over river to a houseboat moored on the other side. But the real natural drama occurred during the subsequent  great thaw. Part of the Thames near Beaumont remained frozen when upstream at Windsor the thaw had caused the ice to break away in great chunks. These came downstream and hit the still packed ice near Beaumont. I recall watching enthralled as the pack ice began to crack with great noises under the strain of holding back the ice slabs that were piling up on the upstream side until eventually with much cracking banging and breaking, the dam broke and the whole volume of pent up ice and water swept down stream.

 Courtesy of the DailyMail  I will try to post one of their old photos taken near to Windsor at about the time in question, here:
EDIT: On reading the Daily Mail piece I think the above photo was taken in 1947 but never mind the gist is the same.


  1. Very interesting, Jerry. I suppose you know Mark Twain's comment on the weather? "Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it."


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