The lack of rain seems to delight weather forecasters. Rain is always seen in a negative light. "Pleasant" days are the ones where it hits 30 degrees C in London and the humidity is somewhere way above 60%. "Pleasant" is when the street garbage stinks so much you have to hold your breath half the time. And then hold your breath again when a bus goes by in case you pass out from the carbon emissions. "Pleasant" is when the sidewalks are sticky with dog pee, pub puke, fast food discards, spit and split garbage bags. Oh, but don't garbage bags go into, you know, big bin things? You'd think so. This is Bloomsbury, the very centre of London, relatively up-and-coming what with the Eurostar around the corner, the smart British Library, the immensely popular British Museum, the chi-chi Brunswick Centre – yet I walk past garbage bags (split and stinking on the sidewalk) every single day.
The only thing that clears the London air and cleans the foul sidewalks is rain. And not that pathetic sticky shit, full of soot and sweat and poison, that dabs at the sidewalk and makes it feel slimy. Proper rain. The stuff that makes you really wet if you forget your umbrella. The stuff that makes the trees go WOOHOO and stretch out their branches with relief and feel their cramped, dried out roots unfurl in soil that has solidified into rock. The stuff that, apparently, people hate.
Yes, I know it can rain too much. There are bits of Britain that seem to wash away at the first sign of a cloud. When I watch the weather forecast, there are parts that seem to rain all the time – and yet none of it ever seems to reach London. Watch the little blue patches fizzle out when they reach the south east. It's like there is a dome over the city. Although perhaps there is a dome: it’s the pollution, so thick and noxious that nothing can get through. Except sunburn. If I wasn't so damn poor, I would have left London years ago to go and gone to live in a rainy bit. I just haven't decided yet if I want to be Welsh or Scottish. Yorkshire appeals too. Where are the really pretty rainy bits? Do I need to drive a car to get about?
I am, I think, about the only person I know that actually likes rain. I loved spring this year when, for once, it rained properly for the first time in several years. We had no rain at all last year and summer seemed to last from March to October. Even Christmas day was warmer than Easter this year. And yet so many people say what a bad summer it was because it rained so much. REALLY???? Where do they live? Can I go there? All those people who hate rain: please, come and live in London. It stinks in the summer and is full of some really awful people and the pollution will kill you if a terrorist doesn't, but, hey, it doesn't rain, so that makes it “pleasant.”
I was delighted to hear John Humphries last week grumble about the lack of rain. He mentioned it again in his occasional Waitrose Weekend column. I'm not entirely sure where he lives but he wanted rain for his garden. As the years go by, I like him more and more. I think he should grumble more often on the Today programme. At least he's honest. The first half of the summer I've had to pretend endlessly to idiot people who kept saying what a bad summer we were having. The fact that the air was fresher than it had been for years, that the sidewalks were cleaner than they had ever been, that foul specimens of humanity had chosen to stay under their rocks seemed to be lost on them. Everywhere I go people want the sun to shine non-stop, full-on 35 degrees C. They should all bugger off to South Africa. Like John Humphries, who apparently spent some time on the Highveld in South Africa, I also experienced its dry dry dry dry dry heat. It never bloody rained. The skies were a washed out blue ALL the time. We hated it. Everyone hated it. Everyone hated being hot and no, we didn't have a swimming pool. It's some kind of fallacy that if you were white South African, you had a pool in your luxurious back yard. I can’t even swim!
I came to England to escape the heat. I came to London for the rain. But I was lied to. There isn't any. August is invariably the worst month when the spring rains (if there was any) has long since dried up and the humidity hits soul-crushing levels on a daily basis. Now that it’s September, you’d think all this humid stuff would have be washed away on an autumnal shower. Heh. It’s stickier today than ever with no relief in sight. Over the weekend, the weather forecasters went on and on and on about how Saturday was an awful day but Sunday was so much better. On Saturday, it rained for twenty minutes (stickily), blew a breeze and managed to be quite a pleasant, tolerable afternoon with a tinge of freshness in the air. Sunday the humidity reached new heights of horribleness and a thick layer of cloud held in the pollution all day like a lid. But because it didn’t RAIN that made it the better day. I’ve heard that the Met Office has lost their BBC contract. About time the BBC lost their weathermen. Or retrained them.
“In the south east today we have the odd spot of rain which will make things feel deliciously fresh. All that horrible humidity will be blown away by this nice breeze bearing down from the north pole. It’ll be freezing cold at night so you’ll be able to sleep well and drink hot chocolate and feel much better about life in general when you wake up the next morning. The temperatures won’t go much above 18 degrees C for the forty seven years so everyone will be in a better mood and all road rage will cease to exist and all those tiny trees the council never waters will actually survive longer than a month.”
Roll on autumn.