PHIL CALVERT: Our national hobby is grumbling about the weather

As the holiday season draws ever nearer it is with some relief we are at last experiencing some decent weather. A few days without it raining are nowadays considered good weather and at last, this week, that is precisely what we have had.

Remember April? Almost alone in the first half of the year, April delivered day after day of pleasant sunny weather, a welcome relief after the harsh, bitterly cold months of winter. Suddenly things felt good. Life returned to our gardens as long dormant plants, produced new growth and masses of blossom. People got on with the daily routines of their lives with something of a spring in their step. Everywhere you went there was the sound of joyous birdsong...the barbecue was rolled out.

As so often happens, hauling the barbecue out of the shed put a kybosh on the good weather. Once the ancient grease and fat from last year had been scraped off, garden furniture dusted down, charcoal lit and friends invited round, the bad weather returned and with something of a vengeance. Local moorlands, so recently bone dry and indeed something of a fire risk keeping firefighters busy, once more became sodden, boggy wastelands.

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With May and the return of the rains, the temperature also dropped, but worst of all there were (often) damaging gusty winds bringing down branches from trees and generally being something of a nuisance. After the delights of April, May proved to be a miserable disappointment, with the Bank Holiday something of a washout. Perhaps we would fare better in June? Yeah, and pigs might fly. We had frost on June 10th and there were reports of snow in Snowdonia. A friend of mine was optimistically playing crown green bowls, when the heavens suddenly opened, sending the players running for cover in the pavilion (actually a small scuffy hut but at least dry). The stair-rod like rain turned to hail and then in minutes cleared leaving the green white from end-to-end. Then there was the mud of Glastonbury and with the start of Wimbledon, we were almost doomed to endure more poor weather.

How welcome has the warmer weather been this week? You might think the answer was an obvious “at long last”, but to listen to folks last Monday you wouldn’t have thought so. Instead of the happy smiling souls you would expect as the (prodigal?) sun made a guest appearance with blue skies in attendance I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much grumbling. Our towns, gardens and countryside basked in sunshine. Gone were the grey skies, the rainy days, the chilly gusting winds. Was this not what everyone was hoping for?

Apparently not. Some years ago I went on a holiday to Egypt. Every day the sun blazed down on us and temperatures soared. Cutting something of a dash in my straw fedora hat, I carried a bottle of water and a solar umbrella, designed to give protection from the fierce sun. Stepping off the coach to see some crumbling ruins built by chaps in loincloths, it was always with some reluctance I would leave the air-conditioned delights of the coach for the furnace-like heat of the great outdoors. It was always a pleasure to clamber back on board.

Strangely, however, despite the heat, so long as you shaded yourself from the direct sun, walking around was not over tiring. It was hot, but you didn’t sweat. You were burned rather than boiled. On a separate holiday, we stopped off at Singapore, a really wonderful place and the weather was once more hot. But briefly, humidity levels soared, and everything became a real drag. Walking around, your legs seemed to be weighed down with lead. The smallest action seemed to require a major effort of will. Everyone’s clothes were wringing wet.

I was reminded of this last Monday. Almost without exception, every customer rejoiced the passing of the grey-sky days but grumbled at the stuffy high temperatures. It seems we are not easily pleased. Little Monty just gave up and spent almost the entire day led on his side on the cold concrete floor, barely moving. Thankfully, by Tuesday, a cool breeze meant we could enjoy the warm summer sun without being boiled.

Certainly the warm summer sun is very welcome and long overdue and we must enjoy it while it lasts, but when you are keeping your fingers crossed and wishing for sunshine be very specific. Include a light breeze, low humidity and while you are at it, perhaps organise some night time rain, ideally between four and five o’clock with everything refreshed but dry by breakfast time. Surely not too much to ask? And even if you do pull off this trick and get perfect weather, you can still expect to get some complaints. The usual one is “we’ll have it to pay for”. Never satisfied, I think we just like to grumble!