We’ve had storms that have names. We’ve been lashed and battered first by Abigail who left a trail of broken branches and flooded fields, and now by Barney who will continue to fill rivers that have already burst their banks and flooded cities like York.
I’d stayed in for days, but this afternoon I defied all common sense and went out to walk in the wet streets, hoping the break in the clouds that looked so inviting would mean the rain would hold off for an hour. I dressed up in my most waterproof clothing, headed for the park and got half way up the dark avenue of lime trees when the wind whipped up and sheets of grey rain came down the field fast, in waves. I tied my hood down more firmly and walked more quickly but I only got halfway up the path to the playground when the rain turned to hail and came down so hard that I was afraid to go on, so I looked around for shelter. I was under trees (which is not always a good idea in a storm) but Abigail had ripped the last of the leaves from the horse chestnuts, and it was no drier there than out in the open. I huddled in the lee of a big lime tree but had no protection from the hailstones, so I scrambled a few feet off the path and crept inside the canopy of a holly tree. Holly is wonderfully waterproof. The branches of this one come right down to the ground and make a dark tented space around the trunk, and crouching in there amongst dry leaves I suddenly remembered what it felt like to be ten years old, playing in the woods and making secret dens under the rhododendrons.
The tarmac path was now a torrent of water that cascaded downhill, cutting furious and dramatic channels through piles of fallen leaves as it went hurtling downwards, piling up branches and twigs and then leaping over them as it powered through rearranging everything in its path.
The hail turned back to rain and eased a little, and I left my holly tree and headed home. My storm-proof jacket is not, it seems, designed for storms like this one. I made my way slowly and cautiously along paths that were now streams, and across a road under inches of water. I was soaked through in places and damp in others, but the rain had stopped, the wind was blowing hard and wasn’t cold. It felt good.
Back home I stripped off wet clothing and in my trouser pocket found my phone damp and its case soaking wet, which was alarming but fortunately not fatal for the phone (which taught me a lesson). I’d wrapped my sketchbook in a plastic bag, which on reflection must show my sense of priorities.
This kind of weather is fun, when you’re only a few hundred yards from the warmth and comfort of home.
Not everyone is so lucky.