Grey day bank holiday

May 4th, 2009 | By | Category: Personal Columns

“Bank holiday weather”, my dad would have said.

The drive to Co Laois was under looming grey skies; the drive back demanded headlights as the traffic inched up the M7 at 15 miles per hour.  The woman on AA Roadwatch said traffic was much lighter than anticipated.  Had their expectations been met, it can only be assumed that we would actually have parked on the motorway and perhaps had a picnic or played a game of football (things I actually saw once on an Austrian autobahn)

Someone did research one time about why it rained so often at weekends and bank holidays. The theory was that vehicle emissions were lower allowing the wet weather fronts, that would otherwise have been held back by the warm air, to advance across the country. It was a nice try at rationalising perverse meteorology. I think I prefer Murphy’s Law as an explanation as to why it is so often wet when we wanted it dry – whatever can go wrong will.

My sister reminded me of childhood experiences of sitting on numerous summer’s days looking out through rain-spattered glass. Lyme Regis was our favourite place to get wet. Sitting at the seafront, eating Cornish pasties while the rain came in sideways, was a quintessential element of my childhood days. Wet seaside towns still evoke the peppery taste of the meat and potato pasty filling.

There was a stoical English spirit that insisted we make the best of things. I remember walking to the aquarium on Lyme Regis’ Cobb in the teeth of a driving gale. Getting inside, I thought the fish in the tanks were probably in a drier environment than their human onlookers, particularly the conger eel that peered out from a length of pipe at the bottom of its tank.

A rich vein of memories, wet bank holidays also created a resourcefulness for making the best of things. A friend says, “There is no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothes.” So when it rains on our holidays as it has on various visits to European countries, this is not a crisis, only an opportunity to demonstrate to chic Parisians and smart Germans and well-attired Austrians and smart Italians our distinctive line in shapeless, crumpled waterproofs. The waterproofs, of course, not only keep the rain out, they also cause the warm air trapped within to condense, so that in twenty minutes they are wet inside and outside.

Nevertheless, the best must be made of things, and off we would set as soon as the rain reduced marginally from the quality of a monsoon. There is nothing that captures the spirit of a place so much as to see it wearing shoes that squelch and as water runs down your neck to be caught by an already saturated collar.

I am told that such days are good for the complexion, I must tell that to our dogs, who are now agitating for their evening walk as the mist advances up the dual carriageway.

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  1. I remember a trip to Blackpool once. It was raining so hard you could hardly see. Wendy had foam insoles in her shoes and had washed them the day before with something very frothy and had neglected to rinse them properly so as soon as the squelch factor kicked in large quantities of foam began oozing from her shoes and with every step more foam formed. It was one of the funniest things I ever saw and I laugh out loud every time I think about it. If it hadn’t been for the lovely rain I wouldn’t have that memory.

  2. Ian you’ve reminded me of family holidays in Wales; sitting drenched in the car overlooking the sea and eating fish and chips, listening to the rain drumming down on the car roof and drawing pictures in the condensation on the windows!

  3. What a difference! Summer rain here brings cooling evening storms and we sit on the verandah marvelling at the lightening and swirling clouds. It brings total relief. Although young as I was, we never went on holiday to Wales without a plethora of card and board games because you’re right . . it would rain!

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