Every rain cloud has a washed-out lining

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The worst Easter weather for 30 years, says the local paper here in mid- Wales of the ruined Bank Holiday - an understatement if ever there was one. Here in the hillside garden the daffodils are not dancing but struggling to open, and the magnolia, despite its protection from a yew hedge, has yet to unfurl a single cream flower. The damson trees have yet to stir into life, although the flowers of those in my London garden are almost over. The hill farmers are fighting to protect the lambs in a state of damp friskiness, as field after field is waterlogged. If this is spring, with the relentless switches from hail to sleet to driving rain, then summer seems a good way off.

No wonder as a nation we are obsessed with the climate - not to mention weathermen and weathergirls - when its capriciousness can wreck any well-laid plan for walks, holidays, weddings or shows. But this isn't a whinge. Watching the shift in mood this week across the wide Vyrnwy Valley has made me marvel at the grandeur of it all. It is as if every potential component of April weather has been fed into a prism and emerged split into intense forms. So we have had not gentle showers but drumming April rain. Hail that turns the grass momentarily white and wakes you up at night with its hammering against the windows. And then, when you are despairing of ever sticking your nose out of doors, gracious blue evening skies appear. Every rain cloud has its pale blue washed-out lining.

All things considered, though, this Easter has been quite an endurance test. At the height of the gales last weekend the top bedroom window pane was blown in by a sudden north-westerly blast. The jagged shards hit the opposite wall, just missing my sleeping daughter. It was eerie to enter a darkened room at 5am with the gale blowing her clothes around.

On Easter Sunday the little church tucked away in a placid Marches village, though packed to the doors, was damply cold as the temperatures plummeted. The pony club had its trials cancelled; no landowner wants the ground further chewed up. Friends deposited their children to play with ours on Easter Monday - all plans for a walk had been abandoned - and we watched from the window as they were suddenly soaked by a downpour of sleet and rain before they reached the front door.

So we ventured to Stokesay Castle near Ludlow, one of the best-preserved and oldest medieval houses in the country. Since English Heritage, which owns it, opened its properties free of charge last Saturday to celebrate 10 years of the organisation's existence, the place had clearly been very well visited. By Wednesday the car park was pure mud, one stranded car in the middle of it. We had 10 minutes to look at it because just as we arrived a huge downpour started. Just as suddenly it abated, the sun came out over the hills and we were back in a tranquil backwater: even the Civil War left Stokesay almost untouched.

But this visit served a useful purpose: the grumpiness of the children evaporated, for what better place to make you appreciate the comforts of 20th-century living. The main hall where most people slept was draughty in the extreme as a brisk west wind blew in through the latticed shutters. The flag on the stone tower stood out taut on its mast. On the way home past the sinister hulk of the Long Mynd, we drove through yet another huge storm before finally emerging into some sun.

The one thing missing from this extraordinary display has been a rainbow, usually so frequent in this part of the world. I think they are just too gentle and fragile a phenomenon for such a fearsome Easter in early April.

Who cannot be touched and moved by Dennis Potter's determination to write his final screenplay while up against the ultimate deadline. Here is a great, if flawed, modern artist not wasting his energy as Dylan Thomas would have done, raging against his fate, but wringing every last creative juice from himself. I only hope he will succeed in matching the Singing Detective and Pennies from Heaven and delight us once more with the best of his work, so we can happily cancel out Lipstick On Your Collar and Blackeyes. How appropriate, too, that the ultimate television practitioner should use the box to administer his last public rites.

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