Singing on the inside
I am British. I have, therefore, a genetically inherited fascination with all things meteorological. This is coupled with a similarly bequeathed paranoid fear of any weather front that even flirts with the concept of extreme.
I was also raised in Botswana – where when the sun is out it’s hot and when it’s not out it’s cold. Mild grey autumnal days and cool fresh spring days have foxed me for most of my life.
My first memories of ‘weather’ (only a Brit can have a first weather memory!) are very closely linked. Endless glorious sunshine, then three days of solid rain, followed up with no rain at all for two years. In a country with so much desert you can understand why the tswana word for rain is “pula” – the same as for “blessings.”
[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=rain&iid=5065452″ src=”8/a/4/3/Young_woman_leaning_0b62.jpg?adImageId=12735429&imageId=5065452″ width=”477″ height=”358″ /]
I obsess about rain – or more acurately, the absence of it. I don’t even realise I’m doing it but I monitor it constantly. I get twitchy when we’ve had no rain for a fortnight. Everyone in the UK thinks I’m mad. They haven’t even noticed, but there I am – only seven days away from getting the pen out to mark the calendar… “Last day of rain.”
Why do I share this with you now? I feel it’s important that you have some context for what I’m about to tell you.
Today I walked home in the rain.
Nothing too earth-shattering about that I grant you. When I woke up this morning I saw lighting and heard thunder, so I went back to bed for an hour. No point trying to get to work in that.
Once it had stopped I packed my bag for work with plastic bags to protect my spare jumper*, spare pair of socksˆ, diary and notebooksˇ, double-checked I had my brolly and off I set in my jolly bright red raincoat! I got to work without incident, (narrowly avoiding a big mudslick left by the storm overnight˜) and didn’t really leave the office all day. I even had to close the blinds in my office at one point because the (nice warm) sun was in my eyes. So all in all, a not bad, ‘turned out nice again‘ kind of day.
Then I heard thunder. I tried really hard to get what I was doing done, but by the time it’s been rolling around for 5 mins you know it means something. So I dashed out of the office, making sure everything was packed away properly and clutching my brolly in my hand.
And that’s when I remembered – using an umbrella in an electrical storm is basically waving a long metal stick in the air and yelling “Go on – I dare ya!” to the laws of Darwinism. So – no brolly then. Best walk quick!
I was over half way home when a tiny light shower suddenly became a skip-load of hail. Yes – I said hail. Hail so hard I think I’ll have bruises tomorrow. The benefit of hail is that while they’re big and heavy, there’s generally a bit of space between the stones, so if you’re careful (and lucky΅) you can Granny Weatherwax˚ your way through for a bit.
I thought about my brolly again but there was another flash of lightning. I thought about standing under a (short) tree until it passed, but that didn’t seem to be keeping me dry, and you never know how long these ‘showers’ can last. So I decided I would brave the last little bit til home. It was just hail after all, and it’s not like I’m going to melt!
Then came the rain.
Actually, the word “rain” doesn’t really do it justice. The word “rain” implies some sort of downward motion of water with spaces in it for air. This was like having a swimming pool dumped over my head through a massive sieve. It came down so hard it was bouncing up off the ground. It took me roughly 90 seconds to get soaked to the skin. I counted.
Now, it might sound like I’m complaining. I’m not.
I am sick of grey skies and no sunshine. I don’t like being cold. I have one pair of shoes that are suitable for walking in mud and they’re now soaking wet – so I have no idea what I’m going to wear to walk to work tomorrow.
But I’m not actually complaining about the rain.
Botswana’s weather is pretty stable and predictable. It’s hot and wet in the summer, cold and dry in the winter. At least, that’s what it’s meant to be. It has rained in Gaborone every month for the last year and a half. Every month. And yet the the dam is still only 53% full. When I first went to Stevensford (to the east) in March, it rained the first night we got there. That was the first rain they’d had in two months. It rained more in April than I’ve known it rain in the whole time I’ve been here, but a good 80% of the river beds we drove over on our mini-tour were dry. April is meant to be the turning month – the tail end of the wet and the start of the dry. You wouldn’t know it to be here. Every drop is needed, it just doesn’t seem to be falling in quite the right places.
Everyone has been commenting on it. The unseasonable nature of it, the strangeness of the weather now. I wonder how much of it is climate change, how much is the effect of urbanisation, how much of it is preparation for the next round of droughts˘. I don’t know, and I’m not sure there’s any real way to find out until after the fact. But it doesn’t stop me wondering, and it won’t stop me counting the days when it does eventually stop.
But the thing that happened today that I actually want to tell you about was this; I re-learnt how good it feels to let yourself go in the moment. Standing under the tree I realised there was no way I was getting home dry. So when the heavens opened and the paths I was walking on turned into rivers, it didn’t matter that much. I was going to get wet, so I could either fight it and be miserable, or embrace it and grin.
I’m sure I looked like a loon picking my way across the water-logged park. But I was a happy loon. I didn’t quite sing out loud, but I sang on the inside.
*Paranoid fear of the sun not coming out so it’ll be cold.
ˆParanoid fear of freak flood somewhere on the way to work and so having to step in a puddle/pond/lake.
ˇParanoid fear of falling over in freak mud slide.
˜Not so paranoid now huh?
΅and creative with how you look at life
˚If you don’t know what I’m talking about you should read more Terry Pratchett.
˘Paranoid fear of drought.