Michael McCarthy: A summer this wet and windy just isn't natural

Share
Related Topics

I once arrived in Finland on May Day. As I walked into my Helsinki hotel, a big Finnish bloke attacked me. Luckily, it was with a balloon. However, the fear flashed through my panicking brain that even though he was not a gunman or a knifeman, merely a balloonman, he still meant to do me harm, and it was with some difficulty that I extricated myself – only to find that everyone in the whole damn city was in the same damn state. They were all pie-eyed. I'd never seen anything like it.

May Day in Finland is a labour festival and a student festival – the students all wear the white hat they get when they leave secondary school, the ylioppilashattu (I wrote it down at the time, if you want to know) – but that doesn't explain the truly Bacchic fervour, the ecstasy almost, with which the First of May is greeted and celebrated.

To understand it you have to understand about the Finnish winter. In January, say, because of the latitude on which it sits – above 60 degrees north, up there with the Shetlands – it is light in Helsinki from about 9am to 3pm. Bad enough. Sometimes though, it is cloudy all day, and sometimes, because of a phenomenon known as a temperature inversion, the cloud can sit there for days and days, a week, two weeks, even (exceptionally) for a month.

Can you imagine going about your business for a month without seeing the sun? No wonder the Finns have one of the world's highest suicide rates, topping themselves, as John Cleese once put it, at a rate of knots. No wonder they greet the coming of the new season of blue skies and warm days with an elation that borders on frenzy. Even with drinks the price they are in Finland.

It may be an exaggeration to say that this August has felt like January in Helsinki, but it isn't much of a one. Later this week, the UK Met Office will release its sunshine and rainfall and wind figures for the month, and statistics will confirm most people's impression that this has been one of the dullest, wettest and windiest Augusts on record, putting the tin hat on what has been a pretty lousy summer anyway.

There are reasons for it, of course, the principal one being the jetstream, the fast-moving high-level ribbon of air which circles the globe at the boundary between the cold polar air to the north and the warm tropical air to the south, and which is responsible for steering areas of low pressure across the Atlantic. This year it has moved south of its normal course – just as it did last year, in fact – so many more of the Atlantic depressions than normal have been directly crossing the British Isles and bestowing upon us their gales and downpours and murk.

And in turn, there are reasons for the jetstream moving south, although these are less well understood, the main one being the influence of La Nina, the cooling of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean which happens every few years and affects weather systems across the globe. As the current La Nina fades, the jetstream will probably move back further north.

But knowing all that somehow doesn't compensate, does it? It doesn't make up for the lost summer, the absence of crystal mornings, and hazy, lazy days, and long glowing evenings (my own particular beef being that, furthermore, this has been The Summer Of No Butterflies).

And I think the reason is, we have age-old instinctive rhythms in us which manifest themselves almost as sense of entitlement, which is enshrined in folklore and poetry.

"As the sun sets, it also rises."

"If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

We bear with the dark season because we know the season of light will follow. We know it. We may not be entitled to much in this life, but everyone of us gets a hot season after the cold, and in Finland, they shout for joy. The balmy time always arrives.

But what if it doesn't? Then we're helpless. As Mark Twain said, everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.

I don't know about you, but it leaves me with a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction with things, a pervasive irritability, in these dog-days of August, at the end of this non-summer. Don't push me, OK? I'm on a hair trigger. I can snap at any second. Give me plenty of space. You should know that I am armed.

All right, it's only with a balloon. But I'm not afraid to use it.

m.mccarthy@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
 

Cameron's speech was an attempt to kill immigration as an election issue

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game