Tuesday, 2 September 2008
There is something I actually like about rainy, autumnal England. There ought to be a vast encyclopaedia listing the occasions, locations, densities, wind-directions, temperatures and colours of English rain. Or a book of essays, poems, excerpts from fiction, weather forecasts and meteorological observations. Let's call it The Book of Rain.
Irish rain is slower, heavier, the drops generally twice the size of the rain we get. When Irish rain lands it explodes softly, leaving a small drenched spot. English rain rarely drenches you; it beats against you like something flapping in the wind.
Tonight I drove into the city to see the MA show at the art college, now a university. It was a little clammy inside. There was a thickening in the air. From there I went to the school where C does a couple of days a week and where the head was having a pre-term hour or so of drinks. It was on coming out of there into the cathedral close that I noticed the sky.
Often, before rain, there is a faint yellow glow in the sky, only just yellow, more grey than yellow, but still feasibly yellow. Above it, like a growing ball of wire-wool, the rain clouds, dark grey and blackening, sodden at their core. I have always felt that approaching rain in this form is the equivalent of a concentrated frown. The roofs look surprisingly light against such sheer intensity of premature dark. It is as if the city were briefly a photograph in negative.
But we were in the bar by the time it came down, the noise of conversation drowning out the sound of rain. And there's nothing like having just got in before the rain really comes down. You know it is hissing and bouncing outside, but here you have a drink in your hand and can watch it, your entire body warm and slightly damp.
While sitting at the table I noticed the sole was coming away from one of my relatively new shoes. There were puddles outside when we left and the smell of freshly passed rain and traffic.
On top of this post sits a wonderful, quite famous, Constable sketch of breaking rain. Aldous Huxley called George Herbert the poet of inner weather. That, I think, is part of the Englishness of English poetry. All the varieties of rain.