Call me perverse (actually, no, on second thoughts don’t – at least not on Twitter; it’s the kind of thing that sends the spambots mad) but I love this weather.
Which, I should clarify in view of the time lapse between me writing and you reading this, is currently rainy. Very, very, very rainy. A-month’s-worth-of-rain-fell-in-the-last- 24-hours-in-London-and-the-south- east-headlines type rainy. And as I live in south-east London, I feel qualified to avow the truth of this.
I love it partly because a) it makes me feel so snug indoors (and when I’m up in my loft-conversion office with the wind howling and the rain lashing I can pretend I’m an 18th century adventurer on the high seas. And who doesn’t want to do that? Avast ye! Hoist the mainsail! And other incomprehensible but pleasingly evocative phrases once read in childhood and never forgotten!). And b) I don’t have to go out very much. I work from home and – I’m sorry about this, I really don’t mean to be rubbing salt into the wound if you are sitting, sodden, on the bus or train with the steam rising from a hundred other similarly soaked bodies – I don’t have to commute any more. Although if it helps, I can’t drive and when I do go out it’s generally with the baby, and trust me, nothing gets you wetter than wrestling a buggy onto buses, waiting at crossing lights or winkling it between pedestrians on the pavement once the heavens open.
In short, it makes me appreciate the state of warm, dry comfort in which, thanks to the various miracles of modernity, we exist most of the time. Without the occasional tip-down, we would take it all for granted. As the Buddhists so rightly say – sorrow carves the cup in which we hold our joy. And I think we can all agree that when that ancient religion and philosophy was evolving its timeless aphorisms on the Indian subcontinent, it was very much the occasional British downpour they had in mind.
"Good weather encourages my terror to blossom like a flower"
But mostly I love the terrible weather because it enables me to banish, for a few brief, glorious and at least internally and metaphorically sun-filled moments, all the grinding worries about environmental disaster that habitually abrade my soul. Does anyone else suffer from this? On a sunny day, the outer four fifths of me are so happy. As I wrote here a few weeks ago, the sunshine has a transformative effect. Smiles, laughter, outdoor cocktails ensue. But the remaining 20% of me pulses with the constant fear that every sunny day is just a gilded harbinger of doom.
My terror about global warming is one of those things that is just with me all the time. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s just part of me, like my inexplicable love of country music and my Catholic guilt (I’ve been ‘lapsed’ as they/we call it for years, but you can never completely eradicate the nameless guilt and dread – the closest I come to feeling good is feeling bad that I don’t feel worse). Good weather just encourages my terror to unfurl and blossom in the sun like a flower – a really malign and foul-smelling bloom; think more cankered triffid than luscious peony. ‘Are we all mad?’ says my underbrain (which speaks, incidentally, in a kind of strangulated whisper – I’d like to know if any of you experience this also, please). ‘Will we look back on our carefree, wilfully ignorant ways with disbelief just a few short decades from now and wonder how we could fiddle with our bikini tops while Rome and everywhere else burned? And where have you put our Zoloft?’
In the rain, I can forget. The sound drowns out the inner voice and allows me a temporary respite. It appears to wash away our environmental sins (I told you – you can take the girl out of Catholicism but…) and allows me to briefly live in denial of the truth. Of course, this very propensity of mine to disavow reality after a few days of bad weather is the thing, replicated en masse, that is going to doom us. We’re instinctively short-termist. If we can’t see it, if it isn’t happening or doesn’t appear to be happening right now, we can and do ignore it. It’s why charities have to work so hard to make us care, collectively, about wars and famines in far-flung places. It’s why pictures are worth a thousand words – we always prefer the evidence of our own eyes to anything else.
Oh god, I’ve talked myself out onto a ledge again. I’d better look out of my office window to forget. Splice the mainbrace on this ship of fools, cap’n! And avast ye, why not, whatever it means!