Storm Lore And Sundry

I’m getting old.

Yesterday, a clap of thunder woke me in the garden. The last thing I’d known was that I’d been reading a book in the shade. Looking up, I could see that there were clouds up there, obscuring part of what was otherwise a bright blue sky.

But they were white clouds, empty of rain. The few rounds of thunder was the only anomaly to that warm afternoon.

Later, I heard that there’d been flooding in Altrincham and Rochdale which is, what, ten minutes away from here? They had been besieged by downpours while we hadn’t had a single raindrop.

This afternoon, however, we got the full works: thunder, lightning and torrential rain.

I do love a good thunderstorm, and consider it a waste if one should occur in daylight hours.

I’d never been afraid of storms, even as a child, though I know many people are. I can recall my brother and I, back in the seventies, going around to my grandparents’ house and asking my Gran if we could play that game again.

“What game?” she asked.

“The one where we all sit beneath the table.”

The previous week there’d been such a storm, and my Gran, susceptible to omens of doom and taking no chances, would hide beneath the dining table until it passed. Taking us with her for company.

I wonder now if she’d ever heard of that old custom of leaving both the front and back door open, so that any lightning or thunderbolt would pass through the house. I think she’d probably have seen that as tantamount to making an invitation. And, even if she did indulge in such a practice, she’d of course have to cover up all mirrors and shiny objects that were known to attract lightning.

If you should be caught outdoors in a storm, it was vital to know your tree lore, such as:

Beware of an oak

It draws the stroke

Avoid an ash

It courts the flash

Creep under the thorn

It can save you from harm

I think we’d be best off staying indoors, though, covered mirrors, open doors or not.

In the current climate, battling this virus as we are, our social distancing measures have worked well in the good weather that we’ve been blessed with. Queuing outside shops, two metres apart, one person in, one person out, no more than two inside at any one time. . . . under regular deluges such as this one, today, I have a feeling that all order would break down, despite our good intentions.

To test this theory, I chanced our attic window a few inches to see what the shops down the hill were like. There wasn’t a single person outside any of the shops, and it looked like there were several people huddled inside the chippy for shelter from the almost horizontal onslaught.

Just as I thought. Never mind Corvid-19, the last thing you’d want to catch these days is a chill.

Musings At A Bus Stop

Shelter. That’s maybe all man has ever wanted. Shelter; warmth; food.

I’m huddled beneath a bus stop in what I regard the centre of my town. It’s not the town centre, so to speak, maybe not even the exact geographical centre, but historically, and spiritually, I think it’s the centre.

And even spiritual centres have bus stops.

A heavy rain has swept in from the coast, tail-end of a hurricane, no less, and I’m here, having emerged from the warmth of the library, watching a river of litter and leaves pass by on their mission to clog the drains.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m waiting for a bus. I’m stood at a bus stop, after all. But no, I’m waiting for my wife to pick me up, this was just the nearest spot to stand out of the rain. I hope a bus doesn’t arrive, that would be awkward.

Have you ever seen children in a supermarket? Young children, I mean. If there is one walking down the aisle, say with his or her Mum, and another child turns into the aisle, they stand there checking each other out. A bit like dogs do. Without the sniffing, of course. Neither smiling nor speaking, they just stand there, sizing each other up.

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about this now, it’s not like I’ve even been to the supermarket, but anyhow, here’s my wife, pulling up, windscreen wipers going ten to the dozen.

A Storm By Any Other Name

For the first time, the end is in sight. I’m nearing the completion of the first draft of a novel, but it’s a double-edged thing, for I can see just how much is left for me to do in the next draft.

I let out a long sigh. Small steps, I tell myself. A chapter at a time.

The rain  hammers hard against the window. The night presses in, intrusively. The wind builds in increasingly strong gusts. I can hear something being blown around out there, something heavy. Liable to do damage. I’ve been out once to secure a slamming gate that was in danger of coming off its hinges. I’ve put off  putting the bin out until morning, it wouldn’t last five minutes before it’d be over, spewing its digested contents all up the street.

This is the first real storm of the season. It has a name. We’ve started giving our storms names much in the manner that the Americans do with their hurricanes. We may as well, we anthromorphise everything else.

I can’t remember the name. I’m sure it’s a male one. Stanley? Harry?

It doesn’t really matter. It will hopefully blow itself out in the night, its anger spent in the unseen hours. Tomorrow I will get up to find a calm, dampened, recovering morning.

I shall call her Grace.

Rain Reigns, Sayeth The Poets

For those of you who have my book Heading North, you may be familiar with the first sentence of the foreword:

I am a northern guy.

For those of you who don’t have the book, I have a feeling that you can read the foreword over on Amazon for free. I haven’t checked this, though, so don’t hold me to it.

As a northern guy, in particular a Mancunian, I have become quite accustomed to rain. We have many ways of describing the types of rain that we experience (by types read measures):

it’s spitting 

it’s drizzling

it’s pouring 

it’s chucking it down

it’s pissing down

(And you wonder that I’m a poet?)

I’m sure there are many more, such is the rich, colloquial tongue of my local bards, but these are the most common refrains.

From around lunchtime today our old, precipitous friend rolled in, on this-the final day before the looooong school summer holidays. I hope the kids do get some good weather, especially for my own sanity, but, as a northern guy, I have a confession to make:

I have learned to love the rain.

Really.

My friends think me insane, but this is the weather that I have learnt to associate with home. Returning from sun-kissed lands and arid deserts, the slow transition from blue skies to slate-grey cloud outside the airplane, water gathering on the panes, serves as the welcome herald of north-west England, the hilly ground in which my roots are sunk deep.

Who doesn’t love to watch a deluge, or feel rain on your upturned face on a balmy day? Or sit calmly reading on a stormy night, torrential downpours battering the house?

And there is one more boon: our wet summers help to deter the into-early-hours garden parties and roaring quad bikes that disturb the neighbourhood and keep the kids awake.

I know, I know – I’m getting old.

Bet that rain isn’t good for rheumatism.

Thought For The Day

(After a sudden storm hit when getting the kids from school.)

Even in my postie days, that was the worst downpour I’ve ever been in. What I learnt from it was: 1. James is delusional. He expected Millie and I to go for a walk around Middleton for forty-five minutes while he played football in the hall. 2. People who sell waterproof clothing need to be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act. 3. Being in such a deluge, when a car passes you on the junction of Windermere Rd and Wood Street and the splash it gives you is so high it actually goes in your face and over your head, you don’t feel any wetter.

image.jpeg

And THAT is the result of today’s school run!

Year End Gusts

The year seems determined to depart in a rail of rain and gusts. The night is fractured by the crashing sounds of unknown objects, untethered and unaccounted for. There is an angry howling around the eaves, but the house stands firm.

not by the hair on my chinny chin chin

The pale dawn reveals a community of resigned routines, a northern expectancy of more to follow, raised on a staple of storm and flood

a good day for ducks

or

to fly a kite

There is a woman bearing a ‘can you believe this’ grin, a hand placed protectively upon her scarf-covered head, even though it is knotted tightly beneath her set chin.

The kids have given up on snow, blinking back stung tears in the wind, laughing at the firm hand on their chests, pummelling and pushing, tempering their flight.

Throughout the town there is a weary shuffle towards the end. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve.

Still we batten down.