mhrant

As soon as you move to the country you realise that the weather only really happens in cities. Out here in the wilds of North Essex everyone lives inside huge insulated cars, smearing the occasional lost cyclist or pedestrian against the hedgerows. It is perfectly safe to open the windows, here where even the attempted theft of a car makes the front page of the local paper. No noise drifts through, only a cooling, neutral breeze, that might as well be canned and sprayed.

Only in the city does it smell of summer: the sour, gritty elixir of dust and diesel that's more romantic and more powerful than anything poor Wordsworth or John Clare could dream about. In the city the weather is not an option, but an inescapable feature of every day. The  tube train 100 feet underground is far closer to nature than you could ever get lolling around in the deserted acres of the Swan Meadow car park in Saffron Walden.

In the city, the weather is something primaeval and apocalyptic. So far this year, we have had a period of snow, followed by a period of rain, followed by a period of sunshine. All of them have threatened the immediate end of civilisation, even if this end seems to change from month to month. There used to  be a joke about the weather in Seattle: if you didn't like it, you needed only wait five minutes and a new one would come along. Now it seems that if you don't like the upcoming end of the world, you need only wait five days for another apocalypse to impend.

Global warming is especially useful here, since it has at various times this year been produced as the explanation for exceptionally cold weather, exceptionally hot weather, and the exceptionally exceptional weather that we npw have every month. There are even some people who claim that global warming does nothing, and that what we are facing is simply a periodic chaotic fluctuation in the climate, which will lead to nothing worse than an ice-age.

It has been difficult ever to take these things entirely seriously, ever since the historic day in 1982 (an exceptionally hot year in Sweden) when Joe Strummer came out as a closet William Rees Mogg fan and sang "The ice age is coming, the sun zooming in.."  He went on to claim, with the insouciance that marks a true weather watcher, that "London's burning", as part of the impending ice age. But perhaps his brains had been fried in the heat.

An American friend neighbour up the road keeps goats and a flock of rare sheep, as befits her Christian beliefs. "It reminds me of Florida:" she said "everyone goes around saying 'I think I could think if I tried, but why bother?'" The goats, incidentally, love the heat. The sheep demand watering three times a day, which casts doubt on the proof which circulates every heat wave that heaven is hotter than hell. This based on impeccable Biblical scholarship: the temperature of Hell cannot be higher than 444.6C; for if it were, the lake of brimstone which features so prominently in the brochures would boil away. On the other hand, the prophet Isaiah promises that the sun will shine fifty times as brightly in heaven as it does on earth, which would require a temperature of 525C.

However, one man qualified to know disputes this theory: the Rev Dr Tom Ambrose, of Ely, whose doctorate is in geology, points out that if Hell is located towards the centre of the earth, the pressure may be high enough to allow for a much greater temperature than that at which brimstone boils at sea level, so it may be hotter than Heaven after all. This is a great advance in human knowledge, since it disproves the popular theory that Hell is somewhere on the Northern Line. Right people, but too shallow.

The one unequivocal effect of the heat is to wipe out people's memories. As we slump in the heat like candles melting, how many people can remember that Wimbledon was nearly washed away; or that the Glastonbury festival looked like the Battle of the Somme without the fun? Or that these excitements were immediately followed by a clutch of headlines explaining we were in the grip of a drought? I know it is hot now, and the Bordeaux vintage is coming in exceptionally early (though in California, the growers are using low-hovering helicopters to blow rain away from their vines). But it is only eight weeks since summer had been abolished for all time by the great flods.

Perhaps the problem is aggravated by the fact that most national newspapers are written by people who live in London, and must commute out to skyscrapers on the fringes to work. From high up in these towers the world looks almost as dramatic as it does from an aeroplane. There is never a normal view: or sights and weathers that are from street level utterly quotidian become huge dramatic pageants of light and silence. Even on days when nothing seems to be happening the flat wastelands of East London gain a sinister metallic glitter, as if out of a Graham Greene novel. And so the weather stories grow ever more dramatic. Sleet in May? Britain is in the grip of Arctic weather.

Three months later, we are headed for a Mediterranean climate, or perhaps one even hotter than the Mediterranean, given that a Cumbrian rare breeds farm has been daubing Factor 15 sunblock on their Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. If the weather really has got too hot for Vietnamese animals it may require a more serious explanation; and I believe I may have found it.

Earlier this year, in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Dr Roger Nelson, of Princeton University, reported that the weather really was better around the University than chance would predict. Specifically, it seldom rained on Commencement Day, when 10,000 students gather in the open air. If it does rain, they have to gather, and steam, indoors, so there is a great deal of prayer for sun when the day comes up. And when he examined the records, going back thirty six years, he found that over the four-day Commencement day weekend Princeton was rained on less, and less often than six neighbouring regions.  The difference was not huge: a matter of 5%. But it was noticeable, and the explanation which struck him was the one half-jokingly believed in by the university itself; that positive thinking can sometimes affect the weather.

If it is the case that concentrated human longing can affect the weather, it would explain a lot of things. The rain when England play Australia has anyone done an analysis of whether it rains more when England plays a stronger team, or would it make no difference because they never play any other sort of cricketers? The rain in Wimbledon is an obvious case. The rain in Wimbledon is another obvious case. Of course, this year it rained and British players did well, but no one was expecting them to, and the rain had probably been ordered in advance

This month's heatwave is simply a reaction to all the longings expressed in June, so watch out. Every time you groan and and long for rain and cool soft breezes, you store up trouble in heaven. The weather will swing once more in wild exaggeration. By winter, I predict, Britain will be gripped by Arctic weather. Snow will fall.

 
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