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This July is the wettest in the UK since the early 90s. With the rain beating against my window I could listen to Joe Purdy I love The Rain Most (when it stops), Lenny Kravitz I Love The Rain (because it comes to him like a woman), Calvin Harris, Ann Peebles or Gene Kelly. One of my mum’s best anecdotes is from when she was dating the musician Al Stewart and from their house on a rainy day in Belsize Village, he wrote the lyrics to Soho (Needless to Say):
“Rainstorm, brainstorm, faces in the maelstrom
Huddle by the puddles in the shadows where the drains run…”
I guess when it pours down there’s time to sit inside listening to the beat of falling water and be inspired. Whether it makes you feel lonely, nostalgic, poetic, musical or subdued, rain evokes feelings.
Women get rescued in the rain; in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly searches for her ‘no-named cat’ in a dramatic downpour and in turn gets scooped up and ‘saved’ by ‘Fred’. In The Thomas Crown Affair, a heavy-hearted Rene Russo sexily paces through torrential rain mulling over her art thief lover. Befitting to her state of mind, she arrives at the police station soaked through and crying. Wetness all round. If you’re the heroine of a Victorian novel, swept up in the agony of unrequited love, then a downpour is a good time to head out onto the moors, catch pneumonia and collapse. There’s always someone around, however, to bail a distressed female out of this teary, feverish state. Both in literature and film, the weather is a good way to make tangible a person’s mental state. Pressure builds in the atmosphere, as it does in the brain, the flood gates burst, tension is released and then (if you’re not too grumpy) “what a glorious feeling- I’m happy again!”
The English are notoriously obsessed with the weather. But we sort of have to be. It’s hard to make summer plans when the sun is a fey little flirt whose interest in illuminating this green and pleasant land rarely lasts more than a week. But no weather here is bemoaned as much as February drizzles. There’s a definite excitement about sudden bursts of rain on a sultry English summer day. But in winter, when the sky is the same colour as the pavement- and the light bouncing between the two gives Londoners a deathly blue pallor, there is then nothing more insulting than sideways rain, shafting you from all directions. This is best described by Charles Dickens: “The sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw, the streets were wet and sloppy… and the rain came slowly and doggedly down, as if it had not even the spirit to pour.”
It’s the lack of spirit in the weather that can depress a nation. In The English Patient, Count Almasy romantically instructs Katherine Clifton on the various types of wind. Armies were engulfed in the simoom and never seen again. One nation was “so enraged by this evil wind that they declared war on it and marched out in full battle array, only to be rapidly and completely interred”. I would like to see the English rage a war against the rain — but we get bogged down, feel mocked by it and then can only whinge about being wet.
Indeed, the weather has often been thought of an extension of human feelings. Reaching beyond the metaphor, many spiritual scientists believe that the accumulation of negative thoughts or emotions in one area may pollute it, creating the necessity for a tornado or hurricane to sweep it clean. There are hundreds of tenuous links between political affairs, important deaths, major sports events and war with freak weather occurrences. Coincidences? Or did mass fervour, stirred by these events, create vortices of negative energy that triggered reactions in the natural world? After the strange and sudden death of Pope John Paul I on September 29, 1978, it rained for seven days straight in Rome — breaking all records.
Personally, I love this pattering against my window. It’s a good excuse to stay where you are, or run out and stamp in puddles (if you’re a child). Somewhere online I found these simple guidelines to do (what could be interpreted as a type of war) a rain dance.
1. Never do a rain dance on a hill.
2. Make sure you have a lot of room so you don’t run into anything.
3. Spin around in clockwise circles.
4. Make up your own rain chant. It should be rhythmical and easy to say fast.
5. Yell your rain chant while spinning around in circles.
6. If you are trying to get rid of rain, spin in anti-clockwise circles and say your chant backwards.