The June bank holiday and the grey dreariness requires that the lights be switched on, although it is not yet half past seven. The passing of one band of rain is the portent of the arrival of another.
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.
No English childhood would have been complete without experiences of sitting somewhere some holiday weekend 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 various European countries, this is not a crisis, only an opportunity to demonstrate to chic Parisians, smart Germans, well-attired Austrians and elegant 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 set as soon as the rain reduces 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. Places that boast of year round sunshine are suddenly beset by gales upon our arrival; temperatures drop by ten degrees.
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.