Tuesday, 2 September 2008

English Rain

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.


Mark Granier said...

Some varieties of Irish rain:


Space Bar said...

'Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun.
If the sun don't come you get a tan from standing in the English rain'

__'I Am The Walrus'

George S said...

Space Bar - You do remember The Big Lebowski, where Donny hears the Dude mention Lenin and responds with I Am the Walrus...?

Mark, the second one down is marvelous. I am going by my experience at TCD.

Mark Granier said...

Thanks George. I thought you might like the 'Louring' one. Unfortunately, that web-page is the only record of it. The larger file got deleted accidentally. I've been looking out for a similar heavyweight storm-cloud ever since, but they are rare here.

Irish rain is normally not that different from English. We are well-acquainted with those flapping, non-drenching showers, also that light, misty wetness we call 'mizzling'. But over the last year or so we have been subject to much heavier, semi-tropical downpours. Here's a close-up of one, taken from the front porch: http://www.blipfoto.com/view.php?id=157127&month=6&year=2008

George S said...

Yes, mizzling. I remember that in Kerry. It was always mizzling, or had just mizzled or was about to mizzle.

I was supposing that since most of our rain arrived from the west, from the Atlantic, on the Gulf Stream, Ireland must get the main bulk of it. Flying from continental Europe, crudely speaking, Hungary is light green, England middling green and Ireland dark green (leaf or pea-green, Brunswick green, viridian.)

In East Anglia the wind switches round in winter and we get the Arctic. It's like having soft staples fired at you, or someone kissing you with designer stubble.

Another nice photo, btw.

Mark Yoxon said...

that "concentrated frown", I always think, has a vaguely apologetic air about it, or a resigned one; english rain is an infuriatingly
passive phenomenon.

George S said...

'Passive phenomenon'...

Negative capability.Mark.