John Lennon (I am the Walrus)
I am watching the sky above Warkworth Castle: it is as dark and grim as a thundery sky over Bermuda at this time of year. The rain in those clouds, when moving my way, could arrive very quickly, and will beat on my kitchen windows obliterating the view. As I have a week's worth of laundry out on the lines, I am looking for the last moment to run outside and haul down clothes, towels and linen.
Why even try? I don't have a clothes dryer, though I can dry things in the flat in two or three days on the airing racks; but that is an inconvenience as Cailean likes to nick things from the rack and hide them away. I can turn the heating on, but our gas rates just increased by 35%. On a very windy day such as this one, outdoors in the courtyard I can get my laundry completely dry, ready to fold and put away, in two hours.
Will I get the two hours? I am watching!
According to the Evening Chronicle out of Newcastle, August has already had more than twice the normal rainfall for this month in the North than it did in 2007, which had been a very wet summer.
Noted: 1,500 cricket matches have been called off this summer of 2008, so far. In 2007, 1,600 were postponed or cancelled during the entire year. God help us!
Farmers are trying to get their crops harvested. Driers must be used once the wet grain is gathered in, and driers use high-priced fuel, and that is crippling farmers. I imagine that handicap will be passed along to us as far higher prices for things as simple as a small wholemeal loaf. The 68P loaf I bought last Christmas cost me 85P yesterday. Up 25%.
The Chronicle gives rainfall figures in millimetres, which means little to me. I still think in old money. I shall attempt to convert these figures here as I know there must be a few people like me who still feel at home with inches.
In Northumberland, in the first two weeks of August this summer, we've had 108.3 mm of rain. That is over 4.5 inches. We had a little over two inches in 2007 for the entire month of August. It's still raining in 2008.
The Alnwick International Music Festival, staged every August for a week in the town's old, cobbled Market Square, during the daylight hours, had to be moved indoors this year. No punters in sunglasses, shorts and pale hairy legs (and their husbands) soaking up the sun and arts and history in 2008. Rather, uncomfortable seats in the cramped Alnwick Playhouse, with its inadequate stage, lighting and gloomy atmosphere.
My summer's potted plants were washed out by mid-month, and I ripped out the annuals, cut back the plants I'm hoping will survive, and toted the lot indoors. Too cold for them outside in Amble's winter weather. The flat is full of clay pots. Despite the pruning, a number of garden dwellers came in with the geraniums, impatiens, hydrangeas, palms and many mystery plants that I bought simply because they looked nice, not by name or reputation. Many times over the past fortnight, Cailean has nudged me and directed me to some corner of the flat, where he then pointed out a large snail, slug or many-legged bug making its way across a room. These visitors have been carefully carried outside and placed in overgrown areas. Even the slugs, they are amazing creatures.
The radio reported trouble at Hadrian's Wall, which starts its way west in Wallsend, some forty miles south of here. I live in the part of the world that Hadrian considered beyond Civilization. On a Saturday night, at least, that reputation stands. Apparently, all the rain has made the ground near the Wall more than a little soggy, well-worn footpaths alongside it are puddled and all that is undermining the Wall in places, making it liable to tumble down. Visitors and hikers are advised to walk at a distance from the Wall, and not in single file, on firmer ground.
If the Scots have their wits about them, they might burst through the Wall about now, take some territory back from the Sassenachs, and get their revenge for Mel Gibson's Braveheart. Should be a walkover!
One day last week, we woke to not only the rain, but to temperatures in the low 40's. In fact, the radio presenter said that it was "six degrees", but he was talking Celsius. Looking outside, people were wearing overcoats, hats and gloves!
Yesterday, 24 August, was not only Sunday Market Day in Amble, but a cycle meet for this part of England (and cyclists from all over Europe it seemed), as well as a fair for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on the Amble waterfront. Why should the rain ease after three weeks? But, ease it did, about mid-morning, and, while cool, it was gloriously sunny and dry. I fossicked for my sunglasses and Panama hat, trimmed my moustache, hitched Cailean to his leash, and walked out among the poodles instead of weeks of puddles.
By last night, of course, the rain had returned. And it only paused a few hours ago. Gathering strength, I imagine.
Warkworth Castle has the look of Al Capp's Joe Btfsplk about it.
I am watching the sky carefully. Goo goo g'joob.