The Durham Chronicles–Always Take the Weather with You

There is a famous song by Crowded House about having four seasons in one day, with the choral advice ‘wherever you go, always take the weather with you’. It would surely be nice if you could do that, especially in the United Kingdom. But alas and alack, the United Kingdom is a largish island (plus extra bits) and cannot hold a weather pattern. Here, the old adage if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes, can actually be true.

There have been studies, lengthy ones, on the effects of different sorts of weather on the human psyche. To my knowledge there have not been any on the effects on cross-cultural folk like me, who live in one region but are frequently found in another part of the world. For sure, if you are used to living in a largely sunny temperate climate (at least much of the year), and you move to Jolly Old, you will need an attitude adjustment, or maybe even an anger management counselor. It does rain here a lot, and the weather is so incredibly changeable especially in winter and spring. This year Durham has hardly had a spring at all. But for bibliophile’s like me, this gives me more time for reading and writing and drinking good coffee.

When Ann and I used to live here 35 years ago, the weather report was often the most humorous show of the day. The man from the BBC would come on with his good Oxbridge accent and say “the weather today in the northeast will be dull”… and then he would put the word DULL up on the map in big capital letters. I’ve never seen that in the U.S. He meant of course it would be grey and boring and cloudy, etc. Or at other times he would come on and say today with will have patchy sunny, bright intervals and put PATCHY SUN up on the map. He meant of course that the sunlight would be intermittent, but isn’t that the case usually on an island which can’t hold a weather pattern and has to take whatever blows in off the ocean. Were it not for the Gulf Stream going up the west coast of England, England could long ago have been like Iceland. Just look at the latitude of the place on a map!

What I have observed again and again, is that the inhabitants of this United Kingdom are mostly hardy lots who get on with the job regardless of the weather. They don’t usually let it slow them down. In other words, they are not wimps like some pampered Americans who live in the land of nearly perpetual sunshine and just can’t bear too much rain or sleet or hail or snow. In other words, the weather here seems to be more character forming than in some places in North America.

Just now the sun is shining on Durham, and the cathedral is gleaming in the sun. But wait five minutes……


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