A rain-soaked memory bank

I’ve just finished reading ‘Rain’ by Melissa Harrison. It’s a book that searches out those rain-soaked memories that lurk deep in your memory bank as you hungrily read the pages.

Weather has been a long-held fascination for the people of these islands. As Harrison points out it’s shaped the way that we live and the way that we think about our identity. Our countryside, our system of farming over the last 10,000 years and the wildlife that calls the UK home are all dependent on the weather.

As an island on the western edge of mainland Europe at the mercy of the full forces of the Atlantic and sweeping weather fronts you’d kind of expect this to be the case. Talking about the weather can help fill the voids of the awkward conversational moments when we run out of things to talk about. We’re always in a slight state of anxiety about what the weather will do today. The only predictable thing about the UK weather is its unpredictability.

The great thing about this is that it’s never boring on the weather front. We might not have the sun-baked summers of southern Europe or the sheet-white winters of northern Europe but this diversity of weather means that it plays such an important role of shaping our daily experiences, whether the journey to work or a summer holiday.

Years ago I remember visiting the sea cliff masterpiece that is Bempton on the Yorkshire coast. As we arrived to catch a glimpse of the seabirds at this RSPB site, storm clouds gathered in the distance. Despite the impending downpour a family, in true British bulldog spirit, was getting ready for a picnic. They were going to have their neatly cut sandwiches and a cup of tea whatever the weather. This speaks, for me, to something at the core of our national identity; shaped as much by our weather as any grandiose national narrative. We are what the weather throws at us; sculpting and creating beautiful landscapes and a total pragmatism in character, which is very British.

In many parts of the world when the rain comes people take shelter. In the UK we carry on as normal. On a work visit to Snowdonia I remember standing in a blanket bog in the driving rain talking about this important habitat. I can remember it as though it was yesterday and it feels like your body will take weeks to dry out.  Only in the UK would this happen.

When I think back to my childhood or time with my kids now, it’s the wilder weather that springs to mind. Wrapped on a Cornish beach with crashing waves or splashing in puddles at Victoria Park in Bath on a deserted day. I just love the weather and we should all grow to love its inclement nature.

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