Our weather is like that piano concerto played by Eric Morecambe: all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
Did you see that footage of 10-ton trucks spinning through the air like so much confetti? Now that’s weather. Real weather. Texan weather. What we have seems embarrassingly parochial by comparison. “Now over to our correspondent in Dumfries where a light fall of snow almost caused Mrs Eileen Bennett to miss her dental appointment.”
But it is quite endearing, our weather – like an eccentric relative staying with you who helpfully picks up your post from the doormat, then places it carefully in the dog kennel. The eccentricity reached new heights on Friday morning — day two of the hosepipe ban. I did my best to flout the ban but couldn’t, on account of the water having turned to ice. I wasn’t using my hosepipe to water the garden, I should explain, but to water my pigs. I’ve got two of them and their trough needed topping up… officer.
The past few years have seen unseasonable heat in April followed by flooding in August. Our weather has become like “Grieg’s Piano Concerto, by Grieg” – as played by Eric Morecambe for André Previn. It has all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
It is sometimes said that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, but I don’t think anyone can anticipate what to wear at the moment. Before getting back to Hampshire to water my pigs on Friday, I was on a beach in Cornwall with my family, and on some days we were sunburned, others we were suffering hypothermia.
On one particularly confusing day, I was on a cliff-top walk in my T-shirt when the clouds turned black and low, heavy with rain. Then the wind started to pick up. The next thing I knew I was in the middle of a gale being lashed by hailstones. As I walked I got a strong sense of how the weather had shaped those cliffs that fell sheer to the sea, a million years of collision. And I thought: isn’t this wonderful? Isn’t this confusing weather one of the best things about living in Britain?
I have a friend who went to live in Spain a few years ago, partly, she said, because she found it uplifting to start each day looking out over blue, cloudless skies. But it sounded like hell to me. Humans are hardwired for variety and contrast. We need it to make sense of the world. That is why when someone is made to listen to white noise they can’t hear it, after a while. Imagine being in a country where one season is like the next, where there is no weather to speak of.
That’s the key: to speak of. How awful it would be, not having the weather to speak of. In this country we are all amateur weathermen who, instead of saying “hello”, greet each other with a weather report that is always a statement of the obvious. “Cold, isn’t it?” or “Boiling, isn’t it?” or “Wet, isn’t it?”
Growing up on a farm in Yorkshire I probably became more obsessed with the weather than most. When your livelihood depends upon rain, or the lack thereof, you can’t help it. We even had a family catchphrase on the subject, which came from the strange announcement that Bob, our cowman, made one day. “There’s rain coming down from Hawes,” he said, “and there’s nowt they can do about it.”
So if you look out of the window this Easter morning and feel confused by the blazing sun, or the blizzard, just shrug and say to yourself: “There’s nowt they can do about it.”