Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Great Storm

We have had no rain here for quite some time and for the last couple of weeks the temperature has generally been into the 20s during the day, hitting the highs of about 27*.  I grant you that 27* (Celsius) is not very high compared to the places some of you inhabit, but to have such high temperatures for such a long period is not normal - even here on the sunny Sussex coast.  It is noticeable that the grass is beginning to turn brown and some gentle rain would be welcomed by keen gardeners.  I'm not sure that all the farmers would appreciate it as they are busy hay-making.

This slightly unusual spell of fine weather puts me in mind of 1976.  There have been good summers since then - it was only two or three years ago that we went so long without rain that rivers and reservoirs dried out.  But 1976 is firmly in the folk memory as a long, hot summer.  The Old Bat remembers it vividly as she was pregnant with our daughter, who was born 37 years ago this week.

That year there were standpipes in towns and we were encouraged to run baths no deeper than four inches or so - I don't remember the exact depth.  In August we had a holiday at Mrs Longman's B & B in north Devon, close to Westward Ho!, a place we returned to year after year as she looked after us so well and the beach was/is long and sandy.  Daughter was only about three weeks old when we went and I remember that Mrs L was most insistent that we ignored all restrictions on water supplies when it came to bathing the baby.  What was more, she washed the nappies!

That is the best summer in our collective folk memory now, although for my parents' generation there were earlier ones.  They talked about the dreadful winter we had in 1947, but I have no recollection of that at all.  We have had a number of winters with short spells of severe weather but I don't really think there has been a terribly bad winter for quite a number of years.

What many people do remember, though, is the Great Storm.  It was in October 1987 that hurricane force winds ripped across southern England uprooting thousands of trees, knocking over telephone boxes, hurling garden sheds across neighbours' gardens and generally causing mayhem.  The signs are still there today in Stanmer woods if one knows what to look for.

But again, that storm was as nothing compared with the hurricanes of the West Indies and southern USA, or the tornadoes that whip up Tornado Alley.  We might moan about our weather here in England, but if we are honest with ourselves, it's really very gentle compared with other places.  Indeed, it has been said that we don't have weather, we have climate.  And our climate is about the best in the world for growing certain fruits - apples and strawberries especially.


I have been posting pictures taken one day last week when I was on the seafront here in Brighton.  We can't leave without seeing the pier, complete with the funfair on the far end!

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