My sister (who qualified in applied maths at 15) trained as a meteorologist and when dementia wiped out all sorts of other things, the distant past hove into view and she remembered that. We went to visit her where she trained, at Prestwick, and she introduced me to the great fun of teleprinters, where she could type a message on to the machine in front of me and I could reply to her on the other side of the room. It doesn’t sound unusual now. Then it was extraordinary. I think of my sister when I watch the television weather forecasters. Of course there are those I like and those I like less but what has struck me for the last several years is how impossible their job is. Weather systems are fractionalised. It is an old truism to say we used to have seasons, and now we just have weather. Now your weather five miles down the road is different from mine and it’s all trump (old word for fart, new word for changeable).
Today is forecast to be warmer than average for the time of year. (Mind you, they said that yesterday and I had cold water running down my back and was chilled back into bed and hot water bottle). And then a bit of sun here and a bit of rain there, wind throughout and back (thank you Flanders and Swann) to bloody January again by the end of the week.
The old wisdom says “Cast not a clout (ie layer) till May is out”. The new wisdom says “Red sky at night ? Break out the white linen.” Age makes you colder. I used to wonder at elderly ladies wearing tights on warm days though I understand it better now. Some are better at layers than others but layers are tricky too. Public buildings and certainly many shops are still on winter central heating schedules. Wear layers in John Lewis and melt ! So stifling are some emporia that I feel a tan should be optional.
The latest London buses were made without windows. Outcry. Millions of pounds were spent to put windows into them but now most passengers sit there sweltering, and do not open them. Please will some enterprising person test London buses as an incubation facility for bugs ? Or could Transport for London start issuing face masks with their logo ?
The snowdrops are out and they are beautiful. There is green on all sorts of other plants and I keep talking to the rowan (genus Joseph Rock – so of course known as Joe) because he’s new. The winter broom is covered with yellow florets, bulbs have pushed through if not bloomed and the honeysuckle is trying hard. There is a sense of waiting.
Almost all my friends wax lyrical about the flowers that bloom in the spring tra-la, birdsong, lighter evenings, softer air but the wisest of them (and the one who gets lowest in February) keeps saying “Not quite, not there yet” and heaven knows, she wants it to be. Perhaps she knows that if she is not cautious, it may elude her.
For spring has always struck me as a cats’ paw of a season – now you see it, now you don’t. It’s warm and soft and oh-so-lovely and then there is a cold wind and you wonder where you put your cardy. Spring is like the girl you always wanted to be friends with at school but no matter how good you felt about a moment of rapprochement, she always preferred somebody else. Or told on you in history. Or explained in front of all your friends that she wouldn’t be here for the School Fete because she’d be in Venice.
Spring is something I have to get through. And it won’t help me. I don’t know how to deal with it except day by day which is my overriding philosophical maxim any way. I understand why people long to spring clean – indeed I do. There seems to be a patina of fine grey over everything, even if you cleaned it last week and I didn’t. I have long thought that the first lot of “spring” clothes in the shops are usually too thick/too thin/too light/too dark, too short, too tight – oh – you know what I mean – too- and I don’t want any of them though I long to buy.
This is not quite spring you know, more sprinter.