… it’s raining and the sky is inky black (Quentin Blake – The Duck Song from ‘All Join In’ – completely brilliant to read aloud)
In praise of rain.
Whilst I was a teacher, I remember a rather dated textbook in which one of the exercises was to write a poem against trees. My colleagues and I had steam coming outof our ears at the very idea. We changed the task to poems in praise of.. something unexpected.
You will be relieved to know that I will not inflict you with poor scansion or cloth-eared rhymes.
But I will speak up for rain.
Coming from the frozen North, I am well acquainted with rain, and her cousins drizzle and mizzle. Walking to and from school, I particularly loved the colours in the sandstone flags that the rain darkened and intensified. Swirls of caramel, toffee and burnt sugar brown rose in the slightly dished surface of the worn causeway.
In a real good downpour, siling down as we say, the sets in roads would run with ripples of water like a snakeskin pulsating.
Some places still had proper granite gutters, and you could race the twigs that canoed down the glittery channels. On the way home, damming streams was good fun, with water now the colour of milky coffee spurting out of the stones and branches and disintegrating mud. Wading through puddles was always good, and doing your own “Singing in the Rain” routine out loud because everyone else has gone home can’t be beaten.
Drizzle stands on your woollies in globules like the juice of on the leaves of a sundew or is held in the creased palms of Lady’s Mantle. It loads cobwebs with fancy chandelier drops and makes Yorkshire Fog sag in silvery swathes. You can leave an explorer’s trail in the long grass, and sometimes watch moss on the wall twist and swell in relief after a dry spell.
We also say’ teeming ‘ for really drenching rain. To ‘teem’ is to strain by using the lid of a pan or suchlike, a very apt image when the heavens open. I loved running home to real fire, chanting “hot chocolate, drinking chocolate” to keep up the pace, then towelling my hair into a silly frizz and being so glad to be inside when the weather was kept outside. Grand.
Or perhaps, the storm would go, having cleaned the sky to a blue more suited to Hawaii than the Pennines. The damp-blackened twigs would glint with unfallen drops darting to sparkle down if you touched them. I would hear the last movement of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ in my head – or “Drip, drip, drip little April showers’ from ‘Bambi’ . And the scents: patchouli -like leafmould, garlicky ransoms and the sharpness of pines tingling in the nose.
There would be the hiss and shush of tyres spraying up any standing water and the chuckle of torrents glugged down by the drains. Corrugated plastic sheeting really plocked, and then channelled the rain into a spattering fringe. Really deep water slowed and quietened the traffic.
Even down here, in the sunny South coast, the ducks rejoice to see their pond resurrected from crazed green mud. Right now, blackberries shine in jewelled clusters and the turning leaf colours glow without the dust. The ditches or rifes run again, saving the frogs and toads. Our pond fish seen to like it, and the pondweed doesn’t which cheers my heat. Our rain butts are replenished and the courgettes flourish. I don’t have to stand like some fat bored fountain nymph watering the runner beans and our local cafes do good business.
And the best, the very best of all, is being snuggled up with a good book as the sound of sleet splatters against the dark windows.