diamond geezer

 Friday, July 18, 2003

After the sun, the rain

The heatwave has broken, the temperature has dropped, the sun has clouded over and the pavements are wet. That'll be another British summer over, then. Hide the shades, stick the shorts back in the wardrobe, leave the barbecue to rust down at the end of the garden, wait for the thunderstorm and make sure you've shut all your windows. So much for that legendary meteorologist St Swithin, whose scalding feast day on Tuesday has since been followed by almost constant rainfall. Let's hope we don't face forty days of downpour.

The rainy season brings that sharp-spiked instrument of the devil out onto the streets - the umbrella. At the first sign of drizzle some Britons appear unable to progress even a few yards along a pavement without wielding this offensive weapon in public. Suddenly the world has a canvas covering, which is particularly frightening for those of us who are just a little taller than average because all those metal spikes are positioned at approximately eye level. Golf umbrellas are the worst, like a huge bladed weapon. Why anyone needs something that wide to protect them from a little bit of moisture is beyond me, unless it's just a way of marking out one's personal territory. A pavement packed with golf umbrellas accommodates only half as many people as it could when dry, so the progress of other pedestrians is impeded and you end up out in the rain for twice as long, twice as pissed on and twice as pissed off.

I wonder what gene it is that makes some people whip up a brolly at the first sign of impending light drizzle? It must be that the world is full of ladies with perms and men with recently-dry-cleaned suits determined not to get even slightly damp at any cost. They'll stop dead on the street to wrestle with their opening mechanisms, standing exactly where you're trying to stand, selfishly blocking your way and wielding their brolly like an offensive weapon. At the first sign of rain other people who've been caught outdoors unprepared will rush into the nearest shop to buy a new umbrella, despite the fact they have ten more at home from the last ten times they got caught out like this. No wonder lost property offices are full of discarded, forgotten and unloved brollies. Maybe it's time for local authorities to start up umbrella recycling schemes to return these instruments of torture to point of sale or, preferably, to bury them deep in landfill sites instead.

Even more worrying is the length of time it takes some people to notice at the end of a downpour that it's stopped raining. The last drop fell minutes ago, the sun's now out and the rest of the world is back to normal, but these people are still bustling along the pavement in their own sheltered world, oblivious to improved atmospheric conditions. All you can hope is that they might stumble too close to the edge of a rain-soaked gutter and be completely drenched by a passing car. Their precious umbrella can't protect them from that low-level watery fate, but at least in the ensuing commotion they might finally notice that it's safe to take it down. Although they're probably thinking that maybe it'll rain again soon, so perhaps it's better to leave it up just in case? Sigh.

I think I preferred being hot, lethargic and sweaty. Can we have the sun back please?

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