I wrote recently that I wasn’t a big fan of the summer but that I didn’t see it as a precious commodity that would be wasted if I wasn’t out roasting myself a shade of lobster red instead of sat on my sofa playing Fable 2. I’ve been reminded this weekend of another reason why I’m sceptical about the whole season, because in the UK, every sunny day seems to come with a big bastard storm attached to it.
I don’t much like storms. Some people do; some people get all fizzy at the prospect of hearing rain hammering against the windows, feeling peals of thunder shaking the ceiling and watching bolts of lightning flash-fry anyone unfortunate enough to be outside but not be near any conductive buildings. That’s not me. No, I play the role of the cowering, whimpering pet, the sort that they used to warn you to keep indoors on Bonfire Night. With all the dignity of a trembling, idiotic pug, I find myself pacing restlessly and unplugging any appliance that isn’t connected to a power-surge protector.
From start to finish, it’s as if we’re being punished for having the temerity to enjoy some sunny weather. Take a look at the following photos to see what I mean, taken only a few hours apart in the same region of London:
How fair is that? Just a few hours after enjoying the roses in Regent’s Park I’m stood staring out of my window at rain, followed by thunder, lightning, and even a hailstorm in the middle of it. Today, again, after a bright, sunny morning I’m inside trying to enjoy a few episodes of Heroes while the apocalypse noisily happens outside and girls in summer dresses run for cover, and it’s going to be like this all week, apparently. There’s no escape, and that would be fine if the presence of a storm didn’t render me incapable of concentrating on anything else but from start to finish, I can’t ignore it.
There’s a process to the entire shebang. First of all, there’s the preamble, the prologue if you will, where the muggy air and the high pressure makes me feel like someone has sat on my head. This can go on for hours as the clouds roll in, a boot stamping on my face, forever, and the air gets that distinctive odour to let you know you’re in for a big one. Then the rain comes, and I’m going to get drenched if I’m caught outside because even though I tend to carry an umbrella, there’s no way I’m raising it when there’s lightning on the move; might as well stand there screaming up at the sky “Come on, you bastards! Try and hit me! Give it your best shot!”
The thunder isn’t too bad, though I could live without it; it’s the lightning that eventually reduces me to a quivering wreck. Sheet lightning I can almost bear, but fork lightning? What’s to like about that? Here’s a form of weather than can reach down from the clouds and hit you with one billion volts, burn the surrounding air to a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun and it’s not like you can dodge out of its way. Bolts of lightning aren’t fun! It may as well be someone shooting at you, except that the someone is Thor, and he’s pissed.
It’s not like I feel any safer being inside, either. Sure, I’m dry, I can mask the sound of the thunder with some phat tunes, some choice beats, but the lightning, that’s harder to ignore. Every single flash says to me “You might think you’re safe in there, boy, but the next bolt is setting fire to your roof so I hope you’ve packed an overnight bag and have your running shoes on.”
On the plus side though, from my vantage point yesterday I got to watch the storm pass over Crouch End, and there was something strangely satisfying about watching that lot get lightly toasted.