As I write, at lunchtime on a late June day, rain pounds down outside. This morning sunshine reigned. It is believed that the British have an obsession with weather – no surprise in England where sunshine and floods can coexist in a day. Such days are also days to look to the skies for rainbows, remembering the very English rhyme Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). Yorkist Richard died during the Wars of the Roses at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460; soon after his death his son became King Edward IV.
Children in England are often taught weather songs and/or poems, many of which tell of the perils of bad weather. One I remember from my childhood:
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain.
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again.
Modern folklore has suggested that the poem really refers to an incident where King Edward I fell in to a puddle (a long way down, as he fell from his horse, and he was a tall man) on his way to Gloucester, after which he vowed to never visit the city again.
England’s seasons, some would argue, have altered due to climate change. Certainly growing seasons vary with weather patterns. Last December, during England’s winter, I saw daffodils flowering – they are normally thought of as spring flowers that bloom in March.
Whilst we have weather forecasters (their accuracy/inaccuracy is always a good conversation topic!), there are older and more traditional ways of predicting the weather, immortalised in sayings and verse.
Candlemas Day takes place on February 2, and it is believed that the weather on this day will help foretell the weather to come:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas day be clouds and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.
If you are in England on July 15 take note of the weather, for this day is St Swithin’s day:
St Swithin’s Day, if it do rain,
For forty days it will remain.
St Swithin’s day, if it be fair
For forty days, ‘twill rain nae mair.
English weather is immortalised in four broadcasts a day of The Shipping Forecast - there was huge public opposition to the suggestion that this forecast be cut from the Radio 4 schedule. The late night and early morning broadcasts can be both lullaby and alarm as a calm voice takes you round the shores of Great Britain and beyond, talking of wind direction and strength, the state of the sea, weather (which can include fog, rain, showers and storm warnings) and visibility.
As I finish writing sun falls through my window; there is a light breeze and the temperature is warm. It is as if the storm of lunchtime rain had never been.
If you are interested in the English and their behaviours (some of which can seem strange to people from other countries) I would recommend Kate Fox’s Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour - the cover alone speaks volumes about the English attitude to weather: