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Turned Out Nice Again: living with the weather, By Richard Mabey
Welcome spring, at last, with a frolic through our climate
Friday 12 April 2013
Britain's extremes of weather are actually not all that extreme; it just seems that way because our climate keeps us guessing. As Richard Mabey puts it, "What we really suffer from is a whimsical climate". For the prolific Mabey, no book is too big or small. There was his epic of botany Flora Britannica and his Cold Comforts, a slim almanack chronicling past storms, snows and suns. He returns to the great outdoors with this slender, agreeably produced hardback which has a spring, and indeed Spring, in its step.
Mabey is out in all weathers: not just in rain but in "red-rain" caused by clouds of dust blown north from the Sahara. While filming a waterfall in a cave with a collapsed roof, he found himself completely surrounded by a circular rainbow "like a fallen halo". His writing sparkles like the natural phenomena he observes.
He was once amazed to glimpse the huge image of a man cast onto a bank of fog; his own shadow. He remembers the Great Storm of 1987, which uprooted 15 million trees, and has been reassured ever since by the way in which seedlings have sprung up to fill the gaps.
He is rather too much attuned to nature, being "weather sensitive". An atmospheric depression can easily hook up with his personal depression. In different ways we have always been "under the weather", none more than John Ruskin. The Victorian writer who cheerfully remarked "There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather," also moaned in paranoid fashion that "loathsome thunderstorms" were being directed against him.
Conversely, we get a thrill from hearing of the times when the weather really let rip, for example, in the 1940 ice-storm when cats were frozen to branches and birds' wings frozen in flight. Then there was the 1979 thunderstorm in which 11 football players were struck by lightning. And after the storms, it's like one of Mabey's books: it turns out nice again.
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