You would think I would have learned by now to temper my expectations. That, being from these parts, I’d have fashioned my character from stronger stuff. How I wish I had mastered the ability to rise above the suspended ceiling of grey, grim damp haze that has fallen in. By the hour I try in vain to summon sufficient imagination to float beyond this sodden lagging and ascend to clear blue skies above. But no, my emotions are drenched in a puddle of dejection. A growing puddle that has become a pool, nay, a lake, and a deep one at that, into which I am sinking. How’s that for a dramatic reaction to a shower that won’t let up? I’ve jettisoned what the indefatigable Alexander McCall-Smith calls ‘the right attitude to rain.’ He’s made of better stuff than I. So taken is he by the conviction of not letting a wet day (or two) get the better of you that he has even used it as the title of a book; a book that contains the following line: “If your ceiling should fall down, then you have lost a room, but gained a courtyard. Think of it that way.” I’m trying, Alexander, I really am, I’m just not succeeding.
Today (in wet socks, cold feet) I am determined not to be the sort of person who sees a gaping great hole in the ceiling but who marvels at the courtyard. Which reminds me of the story A. told me just this morning as we were disconsolately watching more rain fall, complaining that rain clouds definitely do not have silver linings, and agreeing that the only sane option was to take to one’s bed or a hot bath. That’s when A. remembered once being so devoid of sleep (her two children were small wakelings) that she woke up one night certain she could hear an intruder prowling around the house but was just too tired to get up and do anything about him. So she willed him to go away and dug into her dreams only to wake in the morning to discover that the imagined prowler had actually been the sound of her bathroom ceiling falling in and she had not been burgled at all. What a relief!
A man on the radio reminds me that today is St Swithin’s Day, which means we are doomed (yes, more drama) to forty more consecutive days of rain. Which is shorter, at least, than lockdown and a spring breeze compared to Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude where it rained for four years, eleven months and two days. “The ground became soft and damp, like volcanic ash, and the vegetation was thicker and thicker, and the cries of the birds and the uproar of the monkeys became more and more remote, and the world became eternally sad.” Beautiful language, horrible thought! I’m getting trench rot just thinking about it. It’s true, though, that’s what rain does: nature’s tears make us eternally sad. Only the thrush seems to like it, creeping closer to the back door, less shy in pecking at the raisins I throw out. As long as I sit still and don’t move a muscle, it comes to within six feet of me. And I can watch the grass become greener before my very eyes, but there’s nothing new there. The only right attitude to rain I can muster is a supplication for it to cease. Please stop raining. Please.
Rain, Don Paterson
I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;
one big thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame
to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,
and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,
so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from a play,
I think to when we opened cold
on a starlit gutter, running gold
with the neon of a drugstore sign
and I’d read into its blazing line:
forget the ink, the milk, the blood –
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters
and none of this, none of this matters.