July 21 2011
Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
Do you know that song by Travis from their album, The Man Who, which I happen to be listening to as I take a train journey from a crowded London to a probably even more crowded West Dorset?
No matter. The words, the minor chords, the flat vowels are perfect, as I stare out of the wide window at a grey landscape of London exurbia. The edgelands – Tescos, derelict verges, industrial estates and housing towers flashing by, briefly interspersed with patches of open country, but always with pylons, motorways and other symbols of urban proximity cutting across them; and all under a flat, oppressive grey light of rainstorms passing, and more on the way.
It is all rather appropriate. Ten minutes ago, my American journalist friend sent me a text saying “Will you post a blog for us?”
“Of course,” I reply, “but I am just a bit too brain dead to think. What about?” (It is true. I am a little brain dead, a mood hardly enhanced by the scene passing by.)
“The weather?”, comes the reply, quick as a flash. Now I know this was delivered with a little chuckle, that inimitable verbal smile which I so love about her; and I know that the request was meant with every irony which can be directly translated as: “The last thing we would like you to write about is the flipping weather.”
Too bad. I’m enjoying the descent into stereotypes too much. So can we have a brief moment to say how much I am not enjoying our English summer just now? Are you depressed by relentless dull clouds rolling over? I am – and by wet streets, and getting caught in heavy, grey showers; and by arriving at my house in Dorset after a week away to find the garden blown to bits, and drenched in all the wrong ways and places.
Yes you are. Has not the promise of April descended into the unease of July? And do we not find in these our leaden skies a reflection of our wider national mood, waking up to listen to news that says (in so many words), “Trust no one: not the politician, the banker, the priest, policeman, journalist, or the teacher: they have all been on the make”? We know this not to be true; and we know that life, and the world, dear reader, are by and large made up of those just like you and me – getting on with it, as quietly and as kindly and as well as we can. But it is hard, at times, to remember it all.
On Sunday, I drove to the coast with friends. Despite the forecast, which was dreadful, the clouds parted, the sun shone, and the beach was in a moment hotter than you could imagine, filled with happy families, grandparents playing with their grandchildren, uncles with their nephews, optimistic groups setting up camp and eating delicious-looking picnics. We spent a perfect day pottering around Lyme Regis, on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast – one of the finest places in the south west of England. I cannot think of a happier time in ages. Could we all just hope for a little more sunshine?