- Mental Health»
The Usefulness of Rain for the Soul
This is how it works: I choose my Day Off in advance, thereby guaranteeing rain for that day. I then spend the weeks leading up to the Day Off hoping that the rain will break for that day. It never happens. Now this used to annoy me as it meant that, because my Days Off are for writing, I would have to sit in a coffee shop all day — Days Off cannot be taken at home, because children have a crafty knack of getting the off-duty parent to do things for them, and then before you know it, you're doing the washing up and making the tea. Domestic duties are banned on Days Off: Days Off must be taken away from the home.
Now, I'm not pathetic, I could happily be out in the rain all day, but my notebook doesn't really like it. So on Days Off in the past I would high me to Costa or Starbucks (other coffee houses are available, but these are my favourites - don't tell my aunt, because she owns a café.) This would be fine, except that I would become sleepy from eating panini (panini = plural, panino = singular — not a lot of people know that) and not moving about very much, but my legs would be twitchy from the caffeine I'd been consuming.
One solution I toyed with was to not choose my Day Off until the last minute. But with a partner and three children to plan for, this way of trying to guarantee sun for myself could not work: partners and children need at least one week's notice of the mother's annual leave request. Another idea that occurred to me was to point to the day I fancied on the calendar, but not mention that date in actual words. But this did not work for two reasons: my partner cannot remember dates if they are not spoken out loud several times, and also the weather can read minds, and therefore always knows my plans.
So. I came up with a very cunning plan that would allow me to foil the rain's plans to drench me or force me to fill my legs with caffeine: I decided to use the car! Genius! Ha ha! Take that, rain, you cannot reach me now, and you cannot make me twitchy! In my car I can keep with me a flask of green tea with pineapple, which has no effect on my legs at all, and actually serves to invigorate and energise. I can keep a packed lunch with me, to avoid spending Starbucks prices on sandwiches and cakes that don't really fill me.
But that's not the main benefit. No, the main benefit is that I can go wherever I like! Freedom! (I know, a proper writer should not need to use an exclamation mark, ever - but I just can't express the feelings of joy that I'm overcome by at this new ability to roam the earth otherwise; well, roam it within about a fifty-mile radius of my town.) Last month I went up to the hills surrounding my humble historic town of Lancaster, and I looked down on the surrounding villages and the bay and the mountains in the distance. It wasn't quite the top of the world, but it was close to it. Today I have come to Windermere, in the Lake District. It's only about thirty miles from my house, but so much easier to reach with a car; I could probably walk it, but I'd just get here and it would be time to go home. Anyway, if I had postponed my Day Off because of the rain today, I would not have seen this corner of the world being washed clean; I would not have seen people feeding the ducks, geese and swans in a downpour; I would not have noticed our plucky British spirit on display, with people ignoring the rain and going out for a Sunday constitutional just as they do every weekend (people walk in the rain in other countries too, I'm sure, it's just nice to see my fellow countrymen and -women getting on with life in spite of the weather, with their 'it's only water' attitude — just grand); I would not have had the opportunity to sit and watch the world go by in quite the same way had I chosen to take my Day Off in a coffee shop.
People still look so happy today, are still wearing broad smiles, and laughing with their families. They are being given the opportunity to put their hoods to use, and their umbrellas and their wellies.
Rain is a fact of life in the UK. Other countries get worse spells of rain, of course; for instance, I have never seen a hurricane or a flood. When we get rain in the UK it tends to drizzle for days, with teasingly bright sunny spells. If we didn't just get on with it and go about our business, we would sit in the house all day. My children have a bit of a rainphobia if I allow them to — sometimes it's more fun to stay inside and play with Lego. But I want to teach them that there's something very rewarding about enduring a bit of a wetting for a couple of hours.
About once a year I get the opportunity to do one of my favourite things, and that is to get soaked to the skin on a hot summer's afternoon! I can't tell you the meteorology of it, because I don't know about such things, but very occasionally on a close (def. uncomfortably humid or airless : a close, hazy day) hot day we will get a freak shower, with rain drops the size of conchigliette (I'm only using that comparison because I am eating minestrone soup with that particular shape of pasta in it). The shower is deafening, is very dense, so that there is hardly a space in the air without water in it, rain so thick that you can't see through it. I like to rush out into the rain in my bare feet and run around the garden whooping — my children love it, of course. And we all skip about and laugh together, being careful not to touch each other though, because where clothes touch skin goosepimples jump up, causing a person to scream in shock. It's quite possible that our neighbours think we're odd — I hope so. Those showers only last a minute or two, so once we're drenched to the skin we all rush back in, now shivering and giggling, and wrap each other in towels and have a cup of tea. There is no photographic evidence of these drenchings because they happen out of the blue and are over before the camera can be found. If I were Marianne Dashwood, on such a rainy occasion I might ask, 'is there any felicity in the world superior to this?'
Sometimes rain is just a real blessing (if you believe in blessings). On a nice day I would have walked around this lake. Now, when you walk around this place you are often under cover of the trees, you are watching your footing and you are not looking up. Here, I am forced to sit in the car, on a hilltop parking spot chosen for its super view of the lake below, and I am able to gaze and gaze, and imagine myself a Swallow or an Amazon (I know, it's Windermere, not Coniston, but the ferry is not in operation today, so I couldn't reach the right lake from here.)
Rain. Can be a pain.
But mostly it's useful.
And really rather wonderful.