Today is one of those days where the sky is just flat and grey, as far as the eye can see, and the rain persists, easing and intensifying but never really stopping. Days that make me think of England – well, Britain and cosy days with fogged up windows – most especially my room in my aunt’s cottage in South Wales. It was under the eaves, with a steep slanting roof and alcove with a writing desk next to the chimney bearing the heat from the fireplace downstairs. I guess I spent hours alone in that room; she was a single woman in her late thirties, a teacher and her cottage was miles from the nearest village. In fine weather I cycled everywhere, to and from school on week days, then up hill and down dale on the weekends to school friends’ houses, where we watched Tops of the Pops and wrote letters to Adam Ant. Rain days, far more common, kept me indoors, with my books.
In the afternoon the weather would often break, and I’d pull on my beloved duffel coat and my wellies, and set out across the fields playing some imaginary game in my head. I close my eyes and I am there, smelling wood smoke and wet earth, my head full of the books I’d just read. Sometimes I’d play out scenarios I read, other times I’d take the characters on new adventures. I’d loved the Over Sea, Under Stone series and imagined I could divine signs of The Dark rising around me in my part of Wales. I dreamed of the day Will and the others would come seeking my help, unlocking my hitherto unsuspected magical powers. Karen Carpenter would have hated this rainy day Monday, but days like this make me feel alive.
I think it’s because rainy days are great for stories, for losing yourself in the imagination. Back in the day our ancestors must have gathered in caves on rainy days, and re-told the legends that shaped their lives, of great hunts, of devastating weather, of the time Grok fell of the cliff. In romantic comedies, it often rains when things turn sour, but on the land rain brings forth promise, watering the seeds. Of course, it can also bring forth the flood: the ultimate in Biblical vengeance. It wasn’t enough that bloody Eve eating the bloody apple got us kicked out of Eden, we were so bad we FORCED God to drown us all. Milli Vanilli blamed it on the rain, but they’re hardly a reliable source.
I have to acknowledge that this week of all weeks it would be tasteless to be too flippant about weather, with South Australia still trying to recover from the storm that wiped out the whole state’s power. When we sat about in caves telling stories, I bet how to protect ourselves from weather was a frequent topic. We made up myths about venegeful Gods to explain why weather seemed sometimes out to get us. Now we have the technology to protect ourselves, but our leaders spin fairy stories and spend money on magic beans instead of investing in solutions. We’re the Little Pig who built his house from straw.
My all time favourite rain reference is from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, the tale of Rob McKenna, truck driver and Rain God. Rain follows him everywhere, and he has no idea why:
“All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him, and to water him.”
Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish.
I love/ am appalled by the idea of being worshipped, but in a way that makes you miserable. I love that he packs so many ideas into such simple prose. I should be half so articulate.