Saturday, 7 March 2009

..and without rain, we would talk French?!

Dear Mr Postman - thank you for delivering this positive letter article from the Saturday Times online, I shall enjoy reading it again to my mother Ben MacIntyre writes really well . We loved reading it the first time when my mother was still in London and laughed together at all the historical facts and connotations .. it makes interesting reading .. "what if?" ..

"This country is going to the ducks. We are soaked, sodden, drenched and clammy. For what feels like 40 days and 40 nights, a sky the colour of mushroom soup has dumped on us from a not very great height. The gutters, culverts, ditches and reservoirs are bursting. The animals are forming up two by two of their own accord.

The climate is stuck at February. We are in a national state of mildew.

What a patriotic spectacle is the great British public in a great British snit (state of irritation!) about The Great British Weather (anagram: harsh bitter wet heritage). Everyone is complaining about the weather and, as usual, no one is doing a damn thing about it.

The human body is, of course, mostly composed of rain, and for the past few weeks rain has seeped into every corner of our consciousness.

The thing about this British rain is that it is, meteorologically speaking, exceptionally wet. It has a peculiar, merciless quality that Somerset Maugham described precisely: “It did not pour, it flowed. It was like a deluge from heaven . . . it seemed to have a fury of its own. And sometimes you felt that you must scream if it did not stop, and then suddenly you felt powerless, as though your bones had suddenly become soft; and you were miserable and hopeless.”

We cannot do anything about the rain, we don’t know exactly what has caused it in this quantity, and we can’t find anyone to blame. This makes the Daily Mail even more furious. Rain is one of the last aspects of our world over which we have no control.

(Actually, we can do something about it: in the north Indian region of Kumaon, the traditional remedy for stopping rain is to pour hot oil in the left ear of a dog. The animal’s howls are heard by Indra, God of weather, who stops the rain out of pity for the animal’s suffering. Simple, really.)

And yet, while we worry about global warming and pick the moss out of our socks, there is also something in the British character that welcomes the downpour as an old, if annoying, friend. In prose and song, we sentimentalise raindrops on roses, and rain driving against the window, “bringing back sweet memories”.

No other nation gets dressed up for the rain as we do. This is the country that invented the Wellington, the Barbour, galoshes with fake rubber laces, and those special elderly-lady hoods that fold into a concertina and emerge from handbags at bus stops with the first spot of drizzle. Asda sold 220 per cent more slippers last month compared with June 2006.

Two rain-pelt Scotsmen, John Loudon McAdam and Charles Macintosh, gave us waterproof roads and waterproof raincoats. The British umbrella is our national foliage. We spend £65 million on umbrellas every year, and one in ten people manages to lose or destroy at least four a year.

Bad weather is our history, language and literature. Elizabeth and Darcy only fall in love because inclement weather forces them indoors in Pride and Prejudice. In English, it rains cats and dogs, buckets, stair rods, tacks and pitchforks.

Only Afrikaans can compete in rain idiom, with “ Ou vrouens met knopkieries reen” (It is raining old women with knobkerries). Dolly Parton, living embodiment of all that is uplifting, puts it thus: “The way I see it, you wanna rainbow, you gotta put up with rain.”

Rainfall helped us to win at Crécy (1346, by dampening their crossbow strings), Agincourt (1415, by turning the battlefield to mud and bogging down the overarmoured French knights) and Waterloo (1815, by forcing Napoleon to delay his attack, thus giving the Prussians time to turn up). Without rain, we would definitely be speaking French.

So keep complaining, pop on those fashionable galoshes and thank the Rain God you are not in South Africa where, even now, it is raining old women with large wooden clubs."

Thank you Mr Postman .. we do laugh at these painted story images .. it does bring history to life .. - your positive letters do help my mother ...


Peter Baca said...


Thank you for your post about rain in England! Your thought that rain has helped to defend England is historically correct!

Another time storms helped England is when a storm sank a major portion of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Otherwise, we would all be speaking Spanish!

It is interesting to think what could have been!

Best Regards

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. I can't imagine 40 days of rain. I guess I best stay in South California :-) LOL

Thank you,
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Pete .. yes - what could have been historically would have dramatically changed our lives .. if we ever got born!

There are others ...
Hilary: Be Positive Be Happy

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. I thought not! .. but you do need some .. ? Enjoy your wonderful climate ..

Hilary: Be Positive Be Happy