No Singing In The Rain
'I think I'll take a pair in leopard print'or maybe pink polka dot. What! You're out of every pair of Wellies in every colour, style and size?'
It's winter in summer in Britain. We had a week of 13-15 degrees in June. June was also the wettest since 1914'until July, when a whole month of torrential rain plummeted in an hour one afternoon; monsoon sheets of water, opaque black skies'minus the turquoise cocktails augmented by little yellow umbrellas to set the tropical mood. Shops in Notting Hill had to close because they were flooded out. My neighbourhood hardly living up to its name. Oh, that naughty Jet Stream.
While life is beginning to take on a surreal quality, for those of us who hadn't planned our holidays to coincide with this anomalous climatic shock, the only topic of conversation anywhere is the weather. No one cares that Camilla says she doesn't want to become Queen ' too many duties if truth be told. No one cares that Kate 'he's lucky to have me' Middleton has schemed her way back into the Palace ' without her mother this time; she's bringing her cloned sister. No one cares that the world's heaviest bird in the world has laid its first egg on British soil for 175 years. No one cares about anything but the weather.
Even if the average Brit involuntarily mentions the weather every 15 minutes over the course of a day, the time has been noticeably reduced to 15 seconds. I over-heard a guy saying to his girlfriend as the sky opened up and anyone on the street was drenched to the bone within 2 nanoseconds; 'It's the end of the world as we know it' and he wasn't singing. My fruit and veg lady on Portobello refers to the weather as 'diabolical'.
I have never complained about the weather. I started in mid June and haven't stopped since. I have cleverly managed to time the weather patterns perfectly so that every time I pop out, I get soaked - every time. Umbrellas can be fairly useless with the accompanying wind and when the entire heavens have opened up with such drama, trying to keep your head dry is rather pointless when you are drenched from your favourite shoes upward'and water running off the end of your nose is certainly not particularly attractive. Naturally, I am always carrying heavy groceries.
Those willing to live in a delusionary bubble try their best: diaphanous white, lacy or floral dresses, summery accessories, brightly coloured sleeve-less T shirts and beige linen trousers, flip-flops'but the realistic rest of us are buying hot chocolate (up 31%), frozen pies (up 162%), mince (up 130%), carrots (up 162%), tumble driers (up 1000%), umbrellas (up 253% for women and 263% for men), wellies (up 400%), cold and flu remedies (up 247%), slippers (up 222%), duvets (up 24%). Good god. It's Christmas in August.
Retailers who stocked summer products are suffering, and not just from depression. Barbecues (down 29%), ice cream (down 38%), garden furniture (down 60%), flip-flops (down 27%), cold meats (down 45%), plums (down 28%), apricots (down 29%), white wine (down 15%), beer (down 30%) - items all but forgotten. Now that is serious'a summer sans strawberry swirl. But so is losing if you bet on a warm summer at the bookies, who will make '13,000'so far.
In April, there was the thrill of summer in the air. Sunny, warm. I unpacked all my summer skirts, shirts, dresses, flip-flops. Silly me. In June, I unpacked all my winter-y jumpers, polo necks and leggings. I want to turn on the heat, but just can't bring myself to do it. If I succumb, I might affect the chances of summer materializing before the trees begin to turn. It's a matter of principle'and superstition.
With most of Britain under water and being tempted to say, water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink, water companies continue to make obscene profits concurrently. 340,000 people without water, Severn Trent flooded with profits: '1.1 billion' homeowners have seen their water bills rise from '15 to '279. Lovely.
New Prime Minister Gordon Brown went by helicopter to see the disaster area and promised multi-million pound compensation for victims. He also announced a major shake-up of the UK's antiquated drainage system. "We are going to have to look at drainage, surface water, as well as river water - and what we are going to be able to do in the future in relation to that." So reassuring, that Gordon. Isn't this the same government that recently cut all funding for flood control after pleas from environmental agencies as well as weather forecasters? No plaid wellies for Gordon; GB didn't want to get his feet wet - he stayed on board; he needed an overview.
Dear me. The temperatures have dropped, the wind has picked up and it's beginning to rain again. 40 degrees suddenly sounds appealing. Time to don a polar fleece and have another cup of steaming tea.
About the Author:
Maggie is from Manhattan, where she was a painter, then designer of clothing, objects, textiles, interiors while writing for various publications and her own webzine. She is permanently based in London, the city of irony, where she writes regularly to her gal pal Lulu in New York.
You can read her amusing tales about London's daily life, people, current events, politics, fashion and culture at her website www.lettersfromlondon.com.