At the risk of falling into old habits I’m going to talk about the weather. I’ll attempt to avoid concentrating on the negative aspects and complaining but at the same time the current meterological situation isn’t compatible with my ideal.
It’s getting well into May now and after a record breaking dry April with some decent spells of warmth and sunshine it’s understandable that we started to believe that Summer was advancing fast and that we could at last put the prolonged periods of cold, wind and rain behind us. If things had been as we’d hoped we’d have been across The Channel by now but we’re still here, anchored in the Truro River listening to weather forecasts talking about gales F8 and gusts to 45 knots. Now I can almost hear the chortles of my friends overseas who hold perceptions that UK weather is comprised entirely of prolonged periods of cold, wind and rain and I’d like to rebuff those opinions completely, but sadly I can’t for whilst we Brits can easily recall with fondness some ‘heatwave’ Summers the reality is somewhat different, indeed it’s one of the major factors in our desire to sail South.
Notwithstanding major meterological debates around subjects like global warming and El Nino it strikes me that the weather here in the UK has remained much the same for centuries. There are of course some occasional extremes of cold, heat, rain and wind but even these are relatively benign compared to those experienced in other parts of the world. In general though we have a temperate climate with seasons that in some years seem to blend together rather than change. With the exception of mountainous regions Winters without snow are not unusual and so it goes that Summers without heat come along now and again as well. I’m sure that there is data available to support my impression that in general the annual temperature range rarely exceeds 30’C. So given all of the above why is it surprising that today, on the 18th of May, we woke to a temperature of 7’C, winds near gale force and lashing rain?
The answer I think lies with the eternal optimism of us Brits when it comes to the weather. We love to talk about it, we love to complain about it, but in our hearts we know that it’s our weather that makes this green and pleasant land. I vividly recall returning home after a couple of years spent in the dry dusty high veld of South Africa. My eyes were assaulted with the colour green, everywhere I looked, fields. trees, hedges, verges, lawns, gardens, it was overwhelming. Even in the depths of Winter there’s still a green backdrop to every countryside vista. When it’s cold, wet and windy we have pubs with thick stone walls and roaring log fires to hide away in and warm ale to drink. We romantisise the mist shrouded moors, gushing rivers and gale lashed seas we so often see, it’s who we are……. but, is it wrong to ask for just a few months when we can feel differently, when we can do things we can’t do for nine months of the year? A few months where we can walk out of the door without an umbrella, maybe even without a coat. Months where we can eat outdoors, socialise outdoors, just linger outdoors. Us Brits have good internal batteries that when fully charged can see us through most of the year but they need a good re-charge every year otherwise we gradually slow down physically and mentally.
In days gone by of course we were far more affected by the weather but now most of us live and work in centrally heated, well insulated, double glazed buildings and travel between them in equally insulative metal boxes on wheels. Shopping malls even allow us to satisfy our need for groceries and retail consumerism without once stepping outside. If we do venture out it’s briefly to dash between one or the other. For us though it’s differerent, we live on a boat made of thin plywood floating on cold water and devoid of any heating other than the cooking stove and in extremes a few night lights placed underneath a metal cooking pot. As ‘Gleda’ is a Wharram catamaran we really live in two boats with a platform inbetween so moving from one to the other exposes us to whatever is going on outside. As well as two hulls we do have another refuge though, I’m writing this sitting in ‘Gledas’ deck pod, I’m out of the wind and now the sun has made an appearance it feels quite pleasant but every time a strong gust of wind comes through I feel ‘Gleda’ veer and pull on her anchor chain, I hear the wind whistling through the rigging and I feel the drafts of cold air blowing through the gaps in the pods canvas enclosure. In every waking hour we’re in touch with what the weather is doing and we feel every degree of temperature change, every gust of wind, every drop of rain. Even sleep can be interupted by the sounds and movement of each. It’s a curse and a blessing, days of adverse weather can drag, they cause time to drag and they drag you down mentally and physically, Gail has stayed in bed most of today, she’s warm and dry and as far from the weather as it’s possible to be on this boat, sometimes you just want to escape. But when the warmth and sunshine return being here will be a blessing, we’ll be in the best possible place to enjoy it and more than that we’ll appreciate it all the more for having endured the cold, wind and rain.
It’s been 8 months or more since we got our last solar re-charge, it’s well overdue. We’re not going to wait around for Summer to arrive here, we’re sailing off to find where it lives and to stay over a while, we just need a lull and we’ll be off. Sometime in the future we’ll no doubt be lying in the shade somewhere, trying to avoid the sun, trying to stay cool, and one of us will say ‘It’s too hot”. We’ve agreed that the whoever it is will get a slap.