TEN WEATHER MOMENTS
First four specific moments:
1. It is stifling hot in Budapest in late August, 1989 and the weather is about to break. George Bush senior is making the first US presidential visit to Hungary. The plane has touched down, the country is at the tipping point, probably has already tipped, into what, we don't know. A cardboard cut-out of Bush has been standing in the main square for weeks. People are photographed shaking hands with him. Further down the street there is a cardboard cut-out of Michael Jackson. You can shake hands with him too, if you like. Bush is due to make a speech outside parliament. This is history, after all, so I say to C, let's go and see what happens. We are living just around the corner, about ten minutes walk. We stroll down in the gathering dark. In five minutes or so he arrives, but the sky has grown almost black and there are rumblings of thunder. Just as he arrives a cloudburst begins. He's about ten yards from us. An aide offers him an umbrella but he turns it away. He takes out the paper with the speech but it is immediately soaked so he improvises something then moves off. By now the cloud has decided to burst even more spectacularly. The military band waiting to greet him is by-passed as he is hurried into parliament. They stand there not knowing what to do. Our umbrellas are up but we are already soaked. By the time we're home it's as if we'd spent the afternoon in the washing machine.
2. Another hot day, another August, nineteen years before. Two nights before - my stag night - I got so hammered I had to be carried home unconscious. The last thing I remember is a solitary man in a suit singing Delilah behind me as I looked in vain for the chords, indeed the keys, possibly the whole piano, though I am sitting at it. Not a good night and a thumping head in the morning. We drive down to London the next morning, my best man, J and I, and stay at my parents' house. I get dressed for the occasion. It's very hot. The suit is a bit heavy. C blossoms from the car and down the nave. The rest is forgotten, except for the photographs, the heat, my mother in black (why black?), then the long train journey and Liverpool Lime Street in the dark. A rough crossing to Douglas to follow the next day.
3. The great wind of 1987, 15/16 October. Actually saw the Michael Fish forecast. on the 15th. Still working at school. C working at same school. Children attending same school. Sleep through most of the storm, drive into work next morning past fallen branches to find the brick wall of the car park blown down.
4. It's a clear day and I am walking past an electrical shop when a plane approaches a tower. The street as in an aquarium, little movement, all of us under a water made of clear sky.
5. There's a moment in a long oppressively grey day when there is a slight brightening. It's only a tiny change, in fact it might be an illusion.
6. Open the window. It's spring, not particularly bright, but the air seems to be floating, holding its breath.
7. Winter sunlight. At any time. A lover's hand on your brow.
8. The leaves have gathered in the gutter though there is more to come. Enough for a few fistfuls to be set flying by a reasonable gust. The gust picks up and the leaves scuttle down the street like a pack of featherweight rats .
9. Wind again, this time waiting round a corner. And then you turn and catch it full in the face, the flaps of your coat or jacket flying away, a sheet of newspaper clinging to your ankles as you move against it.
10. Right now, the rain in abeyance, the leaves mildly shaking, some streaks of rain down the window, the cobwebs gathering water, swaying and tightening. Something glassy about it all.
But then I forget the lilac bush in spring that was down the garden in the last house and how it looked on a very early spring morning when the light was only promising, and a great deal else.